Monday, 20 January 2014

WELFENSCHATZ, OR MEDIEVAL TREASURE THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BELONG TO GERMANY

MUSEUM MONDAYS

BY ALEXANDRA JEFFERY

Hello fellow museum enthusiasts! This is Museum Mondays in which news items about museums and current exhibits are outlined for your reading pleasure. Together with Brittney (also writing Museum Mondays), we will bring you current museum happenings, 'cause we're cool like that.

Now onto the main story: there is currently a government commission in Germany trying to determine the rightful owners of Welfenschatz, or if German is not a language that you speak, the Guelph Treasure. The treasure is a medieval collection that was originally in Brunswick Cathedral before it was acquired by a Duke of Brunswick in the 17th century. It was held with the family until the 1930s when it was dispersed by Jewish art dealers who had acquired the pieces in 1929. Currently it is displayed in Kunstgewerbemuseum (museum of decorative arts) and the Bode-Museum under the auspices of Staaliche Museen zu Berlin, which is a museum foundation in Berlin (some sources say Bode and some say Kunstgewerbemuseum).

13th century Reliquary (Source)
Portable altar of Eilbertus (Source)
The claim is that the Jewish art dealers had to sell the objects to the German government under the Nazi regime for less than than the value of the objects (currently estimated at around 250 million dollars).

Reliquary (Source)

So there's that bit of sticky history which is further complicated by the Israeli government's informing the commission they intend to pay close attention to what the commission decides. Also, as if it wasn't difficult enough, this dispute came up shortly after a large number of art pieces were found in the attic of a Munich apartment. This brings to light a lot of the issues that arise when cultural heritage is taken, bought or destroyed in war.

Reliquary bust of St. Blaise (Source)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Alex! And thank you for taking us on a trip to Germany, where apparently apartments' attics come with art pieces. The travels that art makes and the politics of those travels are fascinating!

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