Art Recovery International
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Bust of the Goddess Diana


Houdon Bust Looted By The Nazis Returned To Polish Government

Oct 30, 2015

A bust of the goddess Diana looted from the Royal Lazienki Palace in Warsaw by the Nazis has been returned to the Polish government following an amicable resolution with the current possessor who had consigned the work for sale at a Viennese auction house.

From the late 18th century, Jean-Antoine Houdon’s ‘Bust of the Goddess Diana’ was displayed in the collection of King Stanislaw August at the Royal Lazienki Palace. In 1940, under Nazi occupation, the Houdon sculpture and 56 paintings from the National Museum in Warsaw were packed and transported to Krakow, the headquarters of the General Governor, Hans Frank.

The location of the Houdon bust remained a mystery until it was identified by the Polish Ministry of Culture with help of the National Museum in Warsaw when it was offered for sale at Im Kinsky auction house in Vienna. The Polish Ministry of Culture contacted Art Recovery Group who, acting on a pro-bono basis, worked together to encourage the co-operation of the auction house and the consigner in ensuring the restitution of the Houdon bust.

Utilising their extensive international network, Christopher Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery Group, also recruited a former adversary, Hannes Hartung, Managing Partner at Themis Partners and the erstwhile representative of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, and his colleague Andreas Cwitkovits, to provide assistance at a local level.

With priceless diplomatic support offered by the Polish Ambassador to Austria, Artur Lorkowski, and Andrzej Kaczorowski, General Consul, an amicable resolution between the consignor and the Polish government was reached. The Houdon bust will now be returned to the Polish government ahead of a formal restitution ceremony at the Royal Lazienki Palace next month.

There are still many works of art that as a result of Nazi plundering stays in Austria. The Polish government persists in its efforts to find and recovery all of them.