Museum demands Sotheby's return lost art

6th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

6 January 2005, STUTTGART - A German art museum is demanding that Sotheby's hand over a unique album of 16th century drawings and engravings, with a spokeswoman saying it appeared to have been stolen by a US soldier at the end of the Second World War. The auction house is offering the "Augsburg Book of Nobles" for sale in New York with an estimate of USD 600,000 (EUR 452,000), but the Staatsgalerie in the southern German city of Stuttgart says it is the rightful owner. The long-lost album, put together by

6 January 2005

STUTTGART - A German art museum is demanding that Sotheby's hand over a unique album of 16th century drawings and engravings, with a spokeswoman saying it appeared to have been stolen by a US soldier at the end of the Second World War.

The auction house is offering the "Augsburg Book of Nobles" for sale in New York with an estimate of USD 600,000 (EUR 452,000), but the Staatsgalerie in the southern German city of Stuttgart says it is the rightful owner.

The long-lost album, put together by contemporary collector Heinrich Vogtherr, is considered significant by art historians because of the variety of artists represented in drawing the court portraits.

Ulrike Gauss, head of the art museum's drawings department, said it seemed that a soldier had taken the album. He had since died. She said a private individual had sent it to Sotheby's to sell. It still is stamped with the name of a department of the museum.

The museum has had no contact with that individual as yet, but is willing to pay him a finder's fee of 10 percent of current value, she said. However the museum disputed the Sotheby's valuation as too high.

By a legal quirk, the museum has a stronger hand to play in the United States than in Germany, where stolen property can no longer be reclaimed after 30 years. There is no such time limit in the United States, said art gallery director Christian von Holst.

Many art treasures disappeared from Germany in the chaotic days after Nazi power collapsed in 1945 and before the Allied occupation was fully organised.

DPA

Subject: German news

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