Italian police have recovered two chalk studies by Giacomo Cavedone that were looted by the Nazis from the villa of Arthur Feldmann, a Jewish lawyer who died of a heart attack in prison in 1941 after being arrested and tortured.
The two drawings by Cavedone (1577-1660), on either side of a single sheet of paper, are Study of a Priest Holding a Book and A Study of the Standing Figure of a Young Soldier. They are among more than 750 drawings by Dutch, Italian and French 16th- and 17th-century artists seized when the Nazis evicted Feldmann from his home in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in March 1939.
The drawing was identified by the New York Holocaust Claims Processing Office when it was offered for sale at Old Paintings Online, based in the northern Italian town of Salò. The HCPO alerted the Carabinieri, which recovered the work.
“The return of this drawing with the help of the Italian government is very symbolic for us,” says Uri Peled, Feldmann’s grandson. Peled says his father, Feldmann’s son, escaped to Palestine via Trieste on an Italian-manned ship. “Were it not for the Italians, my family would have perished in Auschwitz,” he says. “Now 80 years later it is the Italians who return this artwork to the Feldmann heirs.”
The fate of most of Feldmann’s collection is not known, although the Moravian Provincial Museum in Brno purchased 135 drawings from the German authorities. These were restituted to the Feldmann family by the Czech government in 2003.
Four drawings wound up in the British Museum’s collection. In 2005, the UK High Court found that the British Museum was not legally permitted to restitute the works under the 1963 British Museum Act.
In 2006, the UK Spoliation Advisory Panel recommended that the government should instead pay compensation of ₤175,000 to Feldmann’s heirs.