Museums United Kingdom

V&A must return Meissen figures to Jewish collector’s heirs

But UK’s Spoliation Advisory Panel asks estate to consider leaving one of the sculptures with the London museum

The UK’s Spoliation Advisory Panel has ruled that the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A) should return three Meissen figures to the heirs of a Hamburg-based Jewish collector.

The porcelain figures of a harlequin, a seated woman and a butcher belonged to the decorative arts collector Emma Budge, who died in Hamburg in February 1937. That same year, her collection was sold by the Aryanised Jewish auction house of Paul Graupe.

The panel’s report says: “Despite the absence of reserve prices, a million Reichsmarks were netted in the sales. This sum was paid into a blocked account in M.M. Warburg, a formerly Jewish bank by then controlled by Nazi supporters and the heirs had no access to it.” The panel concludes that Budge’s family was deprived of the proceeds of the sale.

The panel has, however, invited the executor of the estate to consider whether one of the Meissen figures should remain in the V&A’s collection “given that Mrs Budge expressed a wish that, following her death, some or all of her art collection should go to museums in Germany or abroad”.

A spokeswoman for the V&A says that it is following all due procedures and will act in accordance with the panel’s findings.

Budge’s heirs are also seeking items housed at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and at the Burrell Collection, Glasgow.

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