Tapestry looted by Nazis to be returned after 70 years

Louis XIV tapestry

A 300-year-old tapestry is being returned to the French château where it was stolen by the Nazis seven decades ago.

The University of Sheffield is donating the Louis XIV tapestry, looted from the Chateau de Versainville in the northwestern province of Basse-Normandie in 1943 or 1944.

It was owned by war hero, the Comte Bernard de la Rochefoucauld, a member of the Marquis, the French resistance, who died in a German concentration camp, according to The Telegraph.

The Germans looted thousands of works of art from across Europe before and during World War II worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more. Tapestries, paintings, drawings, books and manuscripts, and sculptures were just some of the objets d’art plundered.

The university bought the 12-foot-high tapestry from an art dealer in 1959 for around £1,300, not realizing its provenance. It decided to sell the work in 2013, when it was learned the tapestry had been Nazi booty.

Today it is valued at tens of thousands of dollars.

The tapestry was made around 1720 by the Beauvais Tapestry Manufacture, a privately owned workshop contracted by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, finance minister of Louis XIV, for royal production in the second half of the 17th century. It depicts a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, one of a number of Beauvais tapestries to cover Ovid’s classic mythological tales, according to The Telegraph.

Two other tapestries taken from the château at the same time are still missing, the publication added.

The Comte Bernard de la Rochefoucauld inherited the villa from his maternal grandmother in 1936 and, as a member of the Resistance, became part of the Prosper Network, a network created and supported by the British Special Operations Executive.

He was arrested by the Gestapo in Paris in the summer of 1943 and interned at Flossenbürg concentration camp in Bavaria. He died there on June 4, 1944, at age 43.

View of the Louis XIV tapestry.

View of the Louis XIV tapestry.

His wife, who was also arrested and interned, survived until liberation and lived until 1999 when she died just shy of 97 years of age.

Comte Jacques de la Rochefoucauld, Bernard’s grand-nephew, said he was delighted by the university’s generosity.

“The example that the university has set is one which I hope others will follow in due course, and demonstrates their respect for those who have suffered in the past from the ravages of war,” he said.

Comte Jacques plans to put the tapestry on display at Versainville with a plaque detailing its vicissitudes, including the 50 years it spent at Sheffield, according to The History Blog.

(Top: Officials show off the Louis XIV tapestry. Photo by The Telegraph.)

6 thoughts on “Tapestry looted by Nazis to be returned after 70 years

  1. Enjoyed reading your post. Have been fascinated by this topic of the stolen art for years now. One of best books I read years ago on this subject was Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. Amazing tapestry, glad it’s
    back where it belongs.

    • I, too, have been fascinated by this. Also interesting that Napoleon did much the same thing, minus sending the art’s original owners to concentration camps.

      I’ve been meaning to read Monuments Men – I put off seeing the movie because I hadn’t read the book – and a similar book The Rape of Europa, which has been on “To Read” pile in my room for a couple of years now.

      I, too, am also glad the university did the right thing and returned the tapestry. Too many people turn a blind eye when it comes to justice and having to part with the big bucks.

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