Hermitage to exhibit Bremen Old Master drawings

Director does not foresee restitution to Germany

There have been some sudden developments in the story of the so-called Bremen Collection, taken from Germany after the end of World War II. More than 300 drawings by the great Masters, including Rembrandt, Goya, Dürer, Velazquez and Rubens, were removed in 1945 by Soviet army captain Victor Baldin. In 1947, they were transferred to the Shusev Architectural Museum in Moscow. Fifteen years later, Victor Baldin himself became director of this museum, and held the post for a quarter of a century. During his tenancy, he made a number of proposals at various levels of Soviet authority to hand over the drawings to Bremen’s Kunsthalle. Only in 1989, already in retirement, did he get his own way by telling Bremen that the collection was in Moscow. In 1990, it seemed that the question of the return of the drawings to Germany would be resolved. However, in February 1991, they were removed from the Museum of Architecture to an unknown destination. At the end of the year, unofficial but reliable sources revealed that the drawings had “migrated” to the Hermitage. It was also alleged that a sensation was in the offing. At least part of the collection was shortly to be “discovered” in a provincial Russian town.

Further excitement was generated by reports in the German press that Prime Minister Yeltsin was going to hand them back before Christmas on an official visit to Germany (see The Art Newspaper No. 13, December 1991, p.1). The director of the Hermitage, Vitalij Suslov, has revealed, under journalistic pressure, that the museum is quietly preparing to make an exhibition of the whole Bremen collection. He added that he did not know the future destiny of the collection, but noted with pleasure that it would not be given up to anyone. So it would seem that a decision on its fate has been made, perhaps unilaterally, by the Hermitage itself.