Hungary Resists Restitution Case

February 18 2011

Image of Hungary Resists Restitution Case

Picture: El Greco's Holy Family with Sainte Anne. 

The Hungarian government has resisted an attempt by the heirs of Baron Herzog, owner of one of Hungary's finest private art collections, to seek the return of their paintings. The paintings, which include works by El Greco, Zurburan and Cranach, were seized during the holocaust, when Hungary was an ally of Nazi Germany. 

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Most of the Herzog collection is now in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. The Herzogs have already won back one important painting, the majestic portrait by George Pencz of Sigismund Baldinger. This picture was taken for Hitler's planned personal gallery in Linz. It was returned by the German government in 2010, and sold at Christie's. 

The Hungarian government claims that the Herzog heirs' case is invalid because a 1973 agreement between communist Hungary and the USA settled all outstanding restitution cases. Under that deal, Hungary paid $18million, from which any US citizen affected by looted art could then seek payment. 

It's worth nothing that the works covered by the Herzog claim dwarf that figure in value - and might have done even in 1973.

More on the Herzog collection and case here.

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