February 28, 1995 in Nation/World

Russia Displays Stunning Art Loot Fate Of Works In Question; Germany Wants Paintings Back

Candice Hughes Associated Press
 
Tags:Artlist

Russia put art treasures plundered from Nazi Germany on display Monday, saying they had been “saved twice” - once by the Red Army and again by the museums that guarded the secret horde for 50 years.

The 63 paintings now softly glowing on the walls of the Pushkin Museum span seven centuries and such luminaries of art as El Greco, Goya, Cranach, Degas, Renoir, Daumier and Manet.

Some are from public or private collections in Germany. Others are from the collections of two prominent Jewish families in prewar Hungary. More than a third are described as “origin unknown.”

The works are but a tiny fraction of the more than 2 million art objects the victorious Soviets took from Germany as war trophies.

Although looting went both ways, the defeated Germans had to return their booty. The Soviets, however, hid theirs in secret museum repositories.

Long rumored, the existence of the vast cache was confirmed a few years ago. Now prewar owners want their art back.

Most of the works haven’t been seen in 50 years; some were thought lost forever.

Pushkin Museum director Irina Antonova, who spent much of her career guarding the secret, described Soviet trophy-taking as “an act of heroism” that preserved priceless treasures.

“The first time they were saved by Soviet soldiers. The second time by our restorers and art historians,” she told reporters.

A German Embassy spokesman, Rainhold Frickhinger, sharply disagreed. “They didn’t need to be `rescued,”’ he said.

The show is controversial on several counts. The Pushkin is displaying art from Jewish collectors - victims, not aggressors in the war. Secretive to the end, the Pushkin sprang the show on Germany and the world without warning. And it restored delicate works of disputed ownership.

“We think that without the consent of the legitimate owner, you should not touch works of art. You also should not exhibit them without consent,” Frickhinger said.

But the greatest controversy is the fate of the works. Germany insists all trophy art must be returned under international law and treaties with both the Soviet Union and Russia.

Russia, which has not revealed the full extent of its trophy art holdings, is stalling. Both Antonova and Deputy Culture Minister Mikhail Shvidkoi said it is up to the Russian parliament.

Germany plundered and pillaged wantonly on Soviet territory in the war and there is strong public sentiment here for keeping the art works.

“It’s impossible to forget the total destruction of Russian culture in the war,” Shvidkoi said.

MEMO: This is a sidebar that appeared with the story:

Trophy art Some of the 63 art works from Germany on display at Moscow’s Pushkin Museum: “Revolt” by Honore Daumier, Otto Gerstenberg collection. “Laundresses” by Honore Daumier, Gerstenberg collection. “Portrait of Lola Jimenez” by Francisco Goya, unknown collection. “Carnival” by Francisco Goya, F. Herzog collection (Hungary). “The Fall of Man” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Schloss Museum, Gotha. “Saints and Angels” by Giovanni del Biondo, Herzog collection. “St. Bernard,” by El Greco, Koller collection. “Golgotha,” by Paolo Veronese, Dresden Art Gallery. “Portrait of a Man,” by Jacopo Tintoretto, Ferenc Hatvany collection (Hungary). “Portrait of Mme. Mariette Gambay,” Camille Corot, Hatvany collection. “Portrait of Rosita Maury,” by Edouard Manet, Koehler collection. “Portrait of Mme. Choquet at the Window,” by Pierre Auguste Renoir, Kunsthalle, Bremen.

This is a sidebar that appeared with the story:

Trophy art Some of the 63 art works from Germany on display at Moscow’s Pushkin Museum: “Revolt” by Honore Daumier, Otto Gerstenberg collection. “Laundresses” by Honore Daumier, Gerstenberg collection. “Portrait of Lola Jimenez” by Francisco Goya, unknown collection. “Carnival” by Francisco Goya, F. Herzog collection (Hungary). “The Fall of Man” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Schloss Museum, Gotha. “Saints and Angels” by Giovanni del Biondo, Herzog collection. “St. Bernard,” by El Greco, Koller collection. “Golgotha,” by Paolo Veronese, Dresden Art Gallery. “Portrait of a Man,” by Jacopo Tintoretto, Ferenc Hatvany collection (Hungary). “Portrait of Mme. Mariette Gambay,” Camille Corot, Hatvany collection. “Portrait of Rosita Maury,” by Edouard Manet, Koehler collection. “Portrait of Mme. Choquet at the Window,” by Pierre Auguste Renoir, Kunsthalle, Bremen.


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