Bruegel Masterpiece in Vienna alleged to be Nazi Loot
A front page (above the fold) article in today’s Financial Times outlines a claim that a Pieter Bruegel the Elder masterpiece in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, was looted from Poland in 1939. According to the article, “The tussle comes amid a wider push by Polish authorities to track down artworks and valuables looted during the occupation.”
Seventy-year-old documents unearthed in the archives of Krakow’s National Museum allege that The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, painted in 1559 and thought to be worth tens of millions of pounds, was taken by the wife of the city’s Nazi governor in 1939 during the occupation of Poland.
“It is impossible to overstate the importance of this painting,” said Meredith Hale, a fellow in Netherlandish art at Cambridge university. “If it was taken unlawfully from Krakow to Vienna it would be a huge story for the art world — as big as it gets.”
Art experts estimate that the painting could be valued at well in excess of £50m, with only one of the Dutch artist’s works in private hands.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum insists that the painting has been owned by the gallery since the 17th century. It believes the work that was taken from Krakow by Charlotte von Wächter, wife of Otto von Wächter, governor-general of Krakow from 1939 to 1942, is not the same painting.
Poland will ask Austrian authorities for a full investigation into the painting to determine whether or not it once hung in Krakow’s museum, the country’s deputy minister of culture told Rzeczpospolita, the Polish newspaper which first reported the existence of the archive documents.