November 7, 2011

Curators in glass houses . . .

France has laid claim to a 17th Century painting currently being displayed by a London gallery at an art fair in Paris.

The Carrying of the Cross by the French master Nicolas Tournier was bought last year for 400,000 euros ($550,000) by the Weiss Gallery of London. . .

During the French Revolution, the painting was confiscated by the state and put on display in a museum, but in 1818 it disappeared.

Nothing was heard of the work for nearly 200 years, but two years ago in resurfaced in Italy during the sale of an estate of a wealthy Florence art collector. . .

"This was the property of the French state that was deposited at the Augustins Museum in Toulouse and was stolen in 1818. It is a non-transferable work," the [French Culture Ministry] said in a statement.

From the BBC.

Where this could get messy is if others decide to hold the French state to the same standard. If 1818 isn't too long ago, then neither is 1796-1812, when Napoleon and his cronies methodically stripped Italy and Spain of their finest artworks, many of which were never returned after Napoleon's fall. Many of these are far more prominent than the disputed Tournier, with ample documentation of how and when they were seized from their rightful owners. The Church would surely be the biggest claimant, since the French confiscated altarpieces wholesale during their forcible closure of religious institutions in conquered territories.

Posted by David on November 7, 2011 10:05 PM

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