NEW YORK, NY.- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
has restituted to the heirs of a Munich-based art gallery an 18th-century Meissen snuffbox. In 1936, the shareholders of the gallery, who were Jewish, were forced to liquidate the gallery's entire stock in response to an extortionate tax demand by the Nazi Government in order to secure their freedom to leave Germany. The gallery's inventory was sold at auction in Berlin in 1936.
The snuffbox, which is 1-5/8 inches in height and 3-½ inches in length, is oblong in shape and highly decorated. The design on its cover is based on a design by Jacques de Lajoüe. The snuffbox was given to the Museum in 1982, but it was not until 2007 that the Museum learned, through its own ongoing provenance research, of the forced sale of works, including the snuffbox, at the 1936 auction.
In April 2007, the Museum wrote to the lawyer it knew to be representing the heirs alerting them to the fact that the Museum's collection included a snuffbox sold in the 1936 auction. After an exchange of information and documentation, the Museum agreed that the appropriate course of action was to return the snuffbox to the heirs.
In 2007, the Museum also became aware that a medieval reliquary by Francesco di Vannucio, which had been on loan to the Museum since 1982, was also sold in the 1936 Berlin auction. After discussions with the lender, the Museum arranged for the lender's lawyer and the heirs' lawyer to speak to each other, with the result that the claim was resolved.
"The Metropolitan Museum remains committed to ensuring that works of art which were looted by the Nazis are returned to their rightful owners," stated Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Museum. "To this end, the Metropolitan Museum has conducted extensive provenance research on works in its collection and maintains a section of its website that lists, with images, European paintings in its collection having incomplete ownership histories during the era of World War II or that changed hands during those years. The Museum's Collections Management Policy, which is also available on its website, commits the Museum to reviewing claims concerning Nazi looted art promptly and responsibly. We are pleased that the heirs' claim to the snuffbox has been resolved so smoothly and amicably through discussions between the heirs' legal representative and the Museum. We are also pleased that, with respect to the reliquary, the lender and the heirs were able to reach agreement, and the Museum is happy to have been able to facilitate these discussions."