A porcelain sea nymph that went missing during World War II has been returned to the German city of Dresden after being located in an Ohio museum.
The sea nymph, or Nereid, is worth about $1 million. It disappeared from a box in Reichstaedt Castle, about 12 miles from Dresden, where it was held for safekeeping during the Second World War.
The Nereid is a sweetmeat holder and the centerpiece of an elaborate swan table service comprising about 3,000 items made for Heinrich von Bruehl, prime minister of the 18th-century Saxon Elector and King of Poland, Augustus III, according to Bloomberg.
Ulrich Pietsch, director of Dresden’s state porcelain collection, discovered the Nereid by chance during a visit to the Toledo Museum of Art.
“With the help of x-ray and infrared image, the figure exhibited in Toledo was compared with historical pictures of the war loss,” the Dresden State Art Collections said in a statement. “The pictures proved that the figure from Toledo is identical with the missing Nereid from Dresden.”
During the war, millions of artworks were hidden in German underground depots, mines and country palaces to keep them safe from the Allied bombing. Many were later lost through looting.
Dresden, whose town center was largely destroyed in bombing raids, shipped artworks including the porcelain, which was on loan from the von Bruehl family, to Reichstaedt Castle, south of the city.
After the war, the two boxes of artworks that had been lent to Dresden’s museums by the von Bruehls were recovered at the castle.
But the boxes had been broken into and 10 items, including the porcelain sea nymph, were missing. The Nereid found its way to the US via the art trade and was sold to the Toledo museum by a New York gallery in 1956, according to Bloomberg.
Bruehl (1700-1763) is described as a capable, but definitely flawed diplomat.
He was held responsible for a ruinous fiscal policy which decisively weakened the position of Saxony within the Holy Roman Empire and for the mistaken ambition which led Frederick Augustus II of Prussia to become a candidate for the throne of Poland, which led to a civil war and did sustainable damage to the Polish sovereignty.
Bruehl was also held liable for the intrigues which entangled the Electorate in the alliance against Frederick II, which led to the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War; and for the waste and want of foresight which left Saxony bankrupt and unprepared to resist the immediate attack of Prussia.