An important bronze sculpture in the history of European modern art has been successfully reacquired on behalf of the National Museum's National Gallery
, thanks to support from the Kulturstiftung der Länder (a nationwide cultural foundation) and the Hermann Reemtsma Foundation. The Museum Island's colonnade courtyard, officially opened in June 2010, now boasts another impressive sculpture - Constantin Meunier's 'The Sower' from 1896. Many Berliners will already be familiar with the figure, as for a long while it stood beneath the Alte Nationalgalerie which had presided over the work since the fifties.
Meunier's bronze sculpture 'The Sower' originally formed part of the art collection of Dr. Otto Krebs. After the war, the bulk of his collection was confiscated and removed by the Soviet occupying forces, with only a few works in the collection remaining in Germany, (among them 'The Sower'). These works were declared the public property of the German Democratic Republic and handed over to the Staatliche Museen Berlin (the East German precursor organization to today's National Museums in Berlin or Staatliche Museen zu Berlin). Because works in Dr. Otto Krebs' collection were taken into safekeeping in Thuringia during the Second World War, the Thuringian Regional Authority for the Settlement of Unresolved Property Issues (LARoV) oversaw disputes over their rightful ownership. In 2008 they decided that the works in question should be returned to the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage, after a claim was filed by the heir of Otto Krebs' estate: a foundation for cancer and scarlet fever research in Mannheim. In accordance with the wishes of the legitimate owners, the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage returned the objects in 2010. Besides Meunier's bronze, the works in question included Auguste Rodin's bronze cast 'The Age of Bronze', a small bronze from the 'Dancer' series by Edgar Degas, Aristide Maillol's bronze 'Statue of Renoir Wearing a Hat', 'Woman's Head', a gilded bronze by Ernesto de Fiori, and three works by unknown artists. During an auction held shortly after its return, Meunier's 'The Sower' was repurchased for the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage, enabling it to take up its place in the National Gallery's collection once again.