The British Museum (BM) reached a settlement over four spoliated old master drawings only after the Commission for Looted Art was dropped from handling the claim. In 2000 a Nazi-era restitution claim was presented by the London-based commission, then acting on behalf of Arthur Feldmann’s grandson, Tel Aviv-based Uri Peled. The BM decided that it would be right to return the drawings, but was blocked from doing so after the Attorney General ruled that the museum was prevented by law from deaccessioning.
Mr Peled has revealed that last year he decided to sever his ties with the Commission for Looted Art and pursue the claim himself, “because we felt strongly that the drawings ought to remain in the British Museum.” He therefore asked the museum for compensation. The commission has been a strong advocate of restitution, rather than financial compensation for claimants.
On 27 April the UK’s Spoliation Advisory Panel recommended that the Feldmann descendants should receive a payment, with the drawings remaining at the BM. It proposed a figure of £175,000, to be paid by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Last month Commission for Looted Art spokesperson Anne Webber said that she was “very pleased that this long-standing case has finally been resolved.” The commission wants the British government to change the law “so that those claimants who wish for restitution will be able to achieve it without having to wait many more years.”
Dr Arthur Feldmann was a very important collector in Brno, Switzerland. His works were seized by the Nazis on 15 March 1939. The four drawings which ended up at the BM are by Martin Schongauer (school of), Niccolò dell’Abate, Martin Johann Schmidt and Nicholas Blakey.