Seized by the Nazis, It Could Now Break Auction Records

Meissen porcelain collection goes up for auction next month
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2021 4:15 AM CDT
Seized by the Nazis, It Could Now Break Auction Records
Images from the collection, courtesy of Sotheby's.   (Sotheby's)

(Newser) – A collection of Meissen porcelain once seized by Nazis for Adolf Hitler himself is going up for auction next month. The Jewish owners of the 18th-century pieces, German lawyer Franz Oppenheimer and his Austrian wife Margarethe, fled Germany for Austria in 1936, then escaped to Budapest a little over a year later, leaving almost everything behind. They went through Sweden and Colombia to arrive in New York in 1941, reports the Guardian in an extensive look at the history of their porcelain collection. While it's not clear what happened to the pieces after the Oppenheimers fled, a member of Hitler's SS ultimately seized the collection, along with other pieces belonging to a German art collector and Nazi opponent who may have been looking after the porcelain, for the Führermuseum.

But Hitler's art holdings were moved around to protect them from Allied bombings, and the collection ended up in salt mines in the Austrian Alps, where the so-called Monuments Men, art history experts who salvaged cultural artifacts lost during the war, discovered it and turned it over to the Dutch state holdings. The Dutch government ultimately restituted the collection to the Oppenheimers' heirs this year, Barrons reports. A Sotheby's expert notes it's "incredible" the pieces have remained in perfect condition all this time. The lot consists of 117 pieces, a quarter of the entire collection, which will go on display at Sotheby's in New York on September 7 ahead of the auction September 14. The collection could break auction records, with a high estimate of $3.1 million, Bloomberg reported earlier this month. (Read more stolen art stories.)

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