France hands back Nazi looted art to Jewish family

Head of the paintings department at the Louvre museum, Sebastien Allard, poses next to paintings looted by Nazis during World War II, at the Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (AP)
Updated 12 February 2018
0

France hands back Nazi looted art to Jewish family

PARIS: France will return three paintings by the Flemish master Joachim Patinir Monday to the descendants of a Jewish family who were forced to sell them as they fled the Nazis.
The Bromberg family fled to Paris from Germany in late 1938 and were forced to sell the 16th-century “Triptych of the Crucifixion” depicting Christ on the cross the following year, along with several other paintings so they could get to the United States via Switzerland.
The paintings are to be formally handed over to the descendants of Herta and Henry Bromberg at the Louvre Museum by French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen.
It is the second time in two years that the French state has returned despoiled art to the family.
In 2016 it handed over another 16th-century painting, “Portrait of a Man,” by one of the followers of Antwerp artist Joos van Cleve.
The Patinir paintings had languished for nearly seven decades unclaimed in the French state collections after they were recovered in Munich after World War II.
The triptych had been bought at a knock-down price after the German occupation of Paris and was destined for Hitler’s Fuhrermuseum in his home town of Linz in Austria, where he wanted to build “the ideal museum.”
Patinir is regarded as the father of landscape painting, and developed the panoramic style that became a hallmark of the northern Renaissance.
France has stepped up its efforts to returned art looted during World War II to its rightful owners, using geneological experts to try and trace families.
“It is no longer acceptable to wait for descendants to turn up and ask for the restitution of their family’s art for them to be given their due,” said former culture minister Audrey Azoulay, who now heads UNESCO.
It is thought that up to 100,000 works of art, and millions of books, were stolen from French Jews or Jews who had fled to France before the German occupation.
The Allies found around 60,000 of the missing artworks after the war, and France has been returning works to families since the 1960s — although only 30 were given back up to 1994.
Since then there has been a more concerted effort with a commission of experts, historians and archivists dedicated to resolving the problem since 2013.


Iraq says goodbye to its beloved archaeologist Al-Gailani

Updated 21 January 2019
0

Iraq says goodbye to its beloved archaeologist Al-Gailani

  • Al-Gailani was one of Iraq’s first women to excavate the country’s archaeological heritage
  • After the US-led invasion, Al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war

BAGHDAD: Iraq on Monday mourned the loss of Lamia Al-Gailani, a beloved archaeologist who helped rebuild the Baghdad museum after it was looted following the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
Al-Gailani, who died in Amman, Jordan, on Friday at the age of 80, was one of Iraq’s first women to excavate the country’s archaeological heritage.
Relatives, colleagues, and cultural officials on Monday gathered at Baghdad’s National Museum, the country’s leading museum, to pay their respects before moving her remains to the Qadiriyyah mosque for prayers and later interment.
A devotee of her country’s heritage, Al-Gailani lent her expertise to restore relics stolen from the museum for its reopening in 2015. She also championed a new antiquities museum for the city of Basra, which opened in 2016.
“She was very keen to communicate on the popular level and make archaeology accessible to ordinary people,” said her daughter, Noorah Al-Gailani, who curates the Islamic civilizations collection at the Glasgow Museum in Scotland.
“It is a big loss, the passing of Dr. Lamia Al-Gailaini, who played a great role in the field of archaeology, even before 2003,” said the deputy minister of culture, Qais Hussein Rashid.
The restored collection at the National Museum included hundreds of cylinder seals, the subject of Al-Gailani’s 1977 dissertation at the University of London. These were engraved surfaces used to print cuneiform impressions and pictographic lore onto documents and surfaces in ancient Mesopotamia, now present-day Iraq.
Still, thousands of artefacts remain missing from the museum’s collection, and Al-Gailani bore the grief of watching her country’s rich heritage suffer unfathomable levels of looting and destruction in the years after Saddam’s ouster.
“I wish it was a nightmare and I could wake up,” she told the BBC in 2015, when Daesh militants bulldozed relics at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud near present-day Mosul.
Born in Baghdad in 1938, Al-Gailani studied at the University of Cambridge in Britain before finding work as a curator at the National Museum in 1960. It was her first job in archaeology, her daughter said.
She returned to Britain in 1970 to pursue advanced studies, and she made her home there. Still, she kept returning to her native country, connecting foreign academics with an Iraqi archaeological community that was struggling under the isolation of Saddam Hussein’s autocratic rule and the UN sanctions against him.
In 1999, she published “The First Arabs,” in Arabic, with the Iraqi archaeologist Salim Al-Alusi, on the earliest traces of Arab culture in Mesopotamia, in the 6th through 9th centuries.
She would bring copies of the book with her to Baghdad and sell them through a vendor on Mutanabbi Street, the literary heart of the capital, according to her daughter.
After the US-led invasion, Al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war.
At the time of her death, she was working with the Basra Museum to curate a new exhibit set to open in March, said Qahtan Al-Abeed, the museum director.
“She hand-picked the cylinder seals to display at the museum,” said Al-Abeed.