France Still Keeps Looted Dutch Art

The Prince Willem V Gallery with returned artwork Credit: Mauritshuis /Frank van der Burg.

Former colonies around the world are demanding and getting back important art and national treasures that were removed during the time of occupation and ended up in Europe.

It is recognised that art looted by the Nazis from Jewish owners should be returned to the descendants of the last owners.

There is however quite an irony in the fact that items removed from European Museums or historical sites by the Nazis may themselves either remain in the country to which they were removed or should rightly be returned to the colony that they originally came from.

Napoleon removed huge amounts of art

What isn’t recognised by many is that when Napoleon was on his invasion travels, many items were looted from European countries and were sent to France or elsewhere and some have still not been returned after hundreds of years.

The iconic horses (known as the Quadriga) on top of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin were actually removed at Napoleon’s instruction and shipped to Paris before being returned some eight years later and were not only damaged during Second World War but ended up in no-mans land when Germany was split.

A Dutch Museum, the Mauritshuis in The Hague lost a huge number of artifacts to the Nazis and even now it is estimated that some 70 major works of art still remain in France.

Loot-10 stories

The museum hosts a blank room which is now part of the Loot-10 stories exhibition and visitors can sit in the room wearing VR Goggles and view some of those missing items which include a Rembrandt, other paintings, a horses head from the Quadriga and a number of ancient colonial artifacts.

During the opening of the exhibition, museum director Martine Gosselink explained that a collection of some 200 paintings collected by King William V were removed and sent to the Louvre when France effectively stripped The Netherlands of items of worth from 1794 onwards.

Whilst some two thirds have been returned, the other third still remain in France and may at some time be subject to a demand for their return.

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Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page