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Prized porcelain seized by Nazis goes up for auction

CM 29/08/2021 5

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A collection of prized Meissen porcelain once owned by a German-Jewish couple before WWII is being auctioned off in New York, according to The Guardian. 
The collection includes pieces that trace back to Augustes the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony. Meissen porcelain has been known as some of the oldest and most luxurious porcelain in Europe. 
The collection was assembled by by Hamburg lawyer Franz Oppenheimer and his wife Margarethe in the early 20th century. 

“It’s certainly not just the wonderful porcelain pieces with a perfect provenance, which has drawn the interest of potential buyers,” said Lucian Simmons, the worldwide head of Sotheby’s restitution department, via The Guardian. 
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they were persecuted due to Franz’s Jewish origins and forced to flee to the safety of Vienna, then to Budapest, then to New York. 
What happened to their porcelain during this time is unclear, but it’s possible they smuggled it from Berlin to the Netherlands with a portion of it falling into the care of another collector, Jewish-German banker Fritz Mannheimer.
The bank was closed down by the Nazis, sending Mannheimer into bankruptcy. The liquidation of his assets was seized by the SS – the Nazi paramilitary branch – who acquired Oppenheimer’s porcelain. 
To protect Hitler’s art holdings from allied bombings, the Oppenheimer’s collection was moved to the cellars of a Bohemian monastery, and then moved to salt mines in the Austrian Alps. The collection was recovered by a group nicknamed the “Monuments Men.”
Harry Ettlinger a former member to the ''Monuments Men'' with a print of a Rembrandt self-portrait. (credit: REUTERS)Harry Ettlinger a former member to the ”Monuments Men” with a print of a Rembrandt self-portrait. (credit: REUTERS)
Simmons said, “Porcelain is a tough substance, but it is incredible that these intricate pieces remain in such a perfect condition. They were after all, repeatedly packed up and unpacked, placed in a monastery and a mine, then transported along Alpine roads in army trucks. They have been on a huge and extraordinary road trip.
“It gives us a window into the lives of these connoisseurs from turn-of-the-century Berlin,” he said. “The story is not just of a vase, a bowl or a clock, but embodies the sweep of 20th-century European history. These works are the legacy of this highly respectable elderly couple, who had their lives destroyed and have otherwise been forgotten.”
A public exhibition of the works will open at Sotheby’s in New York on September 7, a week before the live auction. 


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