Rare art 'must be returned'

By Jonathan Kalmus, June 19, 2014

The British Library has been told to return an estimated £200,000 worth of Nazi-stolen art after fresh claims by Jewish heirs.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey has upheld the recommendation of the government's Spoliation Advisory Panel, which, in newly published reports, calls for returning of rare works as the "fair and just resolution".

The British Library has accepted the recommendation, but says it wants to retain the Biccherna Panel - a 15th-century painted wooden tablet by Italian Renaissance painter Guidoccio Cozzarelli. It prefers to compensate the unnamed heirs of five Munich Jewish gallery owners who were forced to sell the panel by the Nazis in 1936.

The Library said it was "engaging with the claimants to ensure the Biccherna Panel will continue to be freely accessible to researchers".

The piece was donated by a British collector who bought it in 1942 for five per cent of its value. Today it could be worth more than £140,000.

Meanwhile, the V&A has acknowledged that three rare porcelain figurines donated as permanent exhibits in 1983 were also part of a forced Nazi sale.

They originally belonged to Hamburg Jewish collector Emma Budge, whose large collection was forcibly auctioned in Berlin in 1937.

A spokesperson for the V&A said that details of the sale had come to light based on new information that was not available in the 1980s.

The pieces will be returned to heirs of the Budge estate.

Last updated: 4:28pm, June 19 2014