Lost Nazi-Looted Jean-Antoine Houdon Bust Returns to Poland after 75 Years

It now stands on the plinth from which it was stolen.

Jean-Antoine Houdon Diana (1777) Photo: Art Recovery Group
Jean-Antoine Houdon Diana (xxxx) Photo: EPA via The Daily Mail

Jean-Antoine Houdon Diana (1777)
Photo: EPA via The Daily Mail

A Nazi-looted marble bust of the mythological goddess Diana by Jean-Antoine Houdon was returned to Poland yesterday after 75 years. It was stolen from the Royal Łazienki Palace in 1940.

Jerome Hasler of the London-based Art Recovery Group told artnet News in an email, “The sculpture was thought lost for seven decades until it appeared for sale at an Austrian auction house in June this year.”

He added “[the] Art Recovery Group were hired by the Polish Ministry of Culture to oversee the successful recovery and we are pleased to announce that […] the sculpture was returned to the very plinth from which it was stolen.”

The bust was looted from the Royal Łazienki Palace in 1940. Photo: Pinterest

The bust was looted from the Royal Łazienki Palace in 1940.
Photo: Pinterest

According to a press release, the bust was moved to the National Museum, Warsaw, and subsequently disappeared after it was transferred to the the residence of the Governor-General of Nazi-occupied Poland, Hans Frank, in Krakow.

This past summer the bust finally resurfaced after it was consigned to an Austrian auction house by a private collector.

Once discovered, the Polish Ministry of Culture quickly filed the paperwork to request the return of the artwork. The deal for the return of the sculpture was brokered by the Polish Embassy in Vienna and the Art Recovery Group which assisted in negotiations for the restitution pro bono.

The bust has now been returned to the plinth from which it was taken in the dining room of the palace. Photo: Art Recovery Group

The bust has now been returned to the very plinth from which it was taken in the dining room of the palace.
Photo: Art Recovery Group

Following extensive talks the unnamed consignor was persuaded to return the artwork allowing it to be restored to its rightful place in the dining room of the historic Baroque-era Łazienki Palace. The only other edition of Houdon’s bust of Diana belongs to the collection of Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art.

“When the work was offered for sale in June it was given an upper estimate of €100,000 ($108,177). Being one of only two Diana busts by Houdon, and having been thought lost for 7 decades, its true value is art historical,” Hasler explained.

Earlier this year a Nazi-looted rococo card table was also returned to the palace. The antique furniture once belonged to the collection of King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski. It adorned the home of a Nazi official during World War II, eventually resurfacing in a Munich auction catalogue in 2013.

In April 2014 the German government returned a Nazi-looted 18th century Francesco Guardi painting to its original home in the Polish National Museum.


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