Tuesday 19 November 2019

First Minister's chandelier may have been looted by Nazis

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP

Auslan Cramb in Edinburgh

An inquiry is under way to establish whether a chandelier in Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's official residence was looted by Nazis during the Second World War.

The elaborate light fitting hangs in the drawing room at Bute House and is said to have been found abandoned in a street in northern Germany in 1945.

According to the official guidebook for the property, it was found by Felix Harbord, an English interior decorator who at the time was part of a commission charged with tracking down an estimated £3bn (€4.2bn) worth of treasures looted under the Nazi regime.

He is said to have packed the chandelier into an empty munitions box before sending it to No 6, Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, which was then the home of his client, Lady Bute.

But a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the Holocaust research organisation, has suggested that it may have been taken from an official collection point for looted artworks.

The report, written by Erin Gibbons, an Irish historian, in 2008 and unearthed by a Sunday newspaper, stated: "A number of matters arise from the chandelier affair. In this instance, Harbord had established a means of removing, from Germany, an unprovenanced artwork by placing it in an empty munitions box and addressing it to a client in Scotland.

"Provenance researchers will undoubtedly be interested to establish whether the chandelier is the only object that Harbord removed from Germany in this way."

The Scottish Government is making inquiries with the National Trust for Scotland, which owns Bute House, in a bid to establish the origin of the item.

Irish Independent

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