The art dealer Ivan Lindsay looks at the history of art theft in his new book ‘A History of Loot and Stolen Art, from Antiquity until the Present Day’, due to be published by Unicorn Press on 3rd November 2013. This fascinating, highly-illustrated history of stolen art and artefacts begins at the earliest days of civilisation and comes right up to the twenty first century. A magisterial and intriguing volume! The book includes a chapter on the Soviet Looting of Germany’s artworks.
As the Soviet army advanced towards Berlin Hitler gave the order that all the art that Germany had stolen from across Europe, estimated as 20% of Europe’s artworks by the US appointed SafeHaven Committee in 1945, should be hidden in designated storage areas such as mines and castles.
The leading Russian museums, the Pushkin and the Hermitage, have been constructed out of looted collections. The core collections were confiscated in 1918 from the Royal Collection of the Tsars and other leading Russian aristocrats such as the Demidovs, Vorontsovs and Sheremetevs. The Impressionist and post-Impressionist collections of the mercantile collectors Schukin and Morozov provide the basis for their later holdings. The Trophy Art acquired in WWII has added to every department of the museums as well as decorating countless government buildings, hospitals and sanatoriums.
What is certain is that Russia still has at least 1,500,000 art objects looted from Germany after the war, a subject has hung like a black cloud over Russo-German relations ever since. Looting 3,000,000 art objects puts Stalin as one of the major art thieves of all time, although he has strong competition from the likes of Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Hitler. Perhaps the final word on the current Russian situation, should go to an elderly WWII veteran of the Red Army who said in 1995, “I don’t think Russia should return art booty to Germany. We suffered a lot from the war, and those treasures should be viewed as a partial compensation for the damage and sufferings.”
About the author:
Ivan Lindsay is an art dealer specializing in European and Russian paintings. He was educated at Eton College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. After four years in the British Army in South East Asia, he worked in the City of London before becoming an art dealer. He writes and lectures on art and the art market and is currently a Contributing Editor at Spears Magazine.
For more information on ‘A History of Loot and Stolen Art’ visit: www.russianartdealer.com/history-book-of-stolen-art ‘A History of Loot and Stolen Art’ can be purchased on amazon here