The spoliation of musical instruments in Europe 1933-1945, Symposium, Philharmonie de Paris, 7-9 April 2022

Events and Conferences

This conference can be seen as part of the ongoing studies of despoiled cultural property (by way of seizures, looting, forced sales, etc.). A great deal of work has been carried out in various institutions, including museums, on despoiled works of art, and more recently on despoiled books. The Philharmonie de Paris and more particularly the Musée de la Musique and its Conservation & Research team, wish to play their part in research on looting in the musical field: provenance research, market and circulation of musical instruments, stakeholders and their networks, etc.

The history of music during the Nazi period in France and Europe has been the subject of many studies and works over the last decade. For example, the conference “La musique à Paris sous l’Occupation” (Music in Paris under the Occupation) (Cité de la musique, 13-14 May 2013, Fayard, 2013) focused on the activity of composers and musicians during this period. The study day “La musique spoliée” (Despoiled music) (Sciences Po, January 2020) set out the various aspects of the subject (history of the spoliation of instruments, music books and scores, memorial approach). This international conference is dedicated specifically to the musical instrument as a heritage and cultural asset.

If the musical instrument is indeed a cultural object, then its specificity must be taken into account when conducting research on its origins and on its spoliation. As an object of use by a musician, an instrument changes over time so as to remain in good condition to be played. It might change in appearance (accidents, wear and tear, cleaning, new accessories, etc.). Besides, the selling and buying of instruments that took place during the Nazi period, or indeed since then, may have led to more extensive material changes and changes of attribution. The history of these transactions has yet to be written. Highly specialised, the concerned parties (luthiers, dealers, professionals, amateurs, etc.) are a reservoir of significant knowledge; they are the creators of written and visual sources allowing us to record the transactions (photographs, descriptions, accounting documents, expertise certificates...).

An assessment of these sources will enable us to determine the movement of these instruments and, by so doing, to infer their provenance.

This conference is conceived as the first part of a long-term collective research. It aims to create a large network (historians, art historians and musicologists, museum professionals, lawyers, instrument makers, art market and music industry players) and to set in train a research impetus exploring the origins of these musical artefacts. The conference also seeks to propose tools and methods adapted to the history and movement of musical instruments. Lastly, it aims to identify priority research areas and subjects for the coming years.

With the contribution as a guest speaker of Carla Shapreau (Senior Fellow, Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley).


●  History of the spoliation of musical instruments between 1933 and 1945; history of the research and history of their restitution after 1945; link with the spoliation of works of art (collections, networks...);
●  Identification, accessibility and study of historical sources (public and private archives, instruments), research methodology;
●  The instrument collections of museums: history of ownership and possession from 1933 onwards, origin and provenance research; current policies of museum institutions on this subject;
●  The selling, buying and movement of musical instruments since 1933;
●  Legal and policy aspects: frameworks for the circulation of instruments, market rules, strengths and
weaknesses of the current legislative and regulatory framework. 


We are currently requesting papers related to the five themes outlined above. Interested parties will endeavour to submit unpublished works, which can be broad synthesis or case studies.

The papers (3000 characters/600 words) in French or English, accompanied by a short biography of the author, should be submitted by no later than 30 September 2021 to: colloques@philharmoniedeparis.fr. The proposals will be selected by the scientific committee of the conference. If your paper is selected, an abridged version of your abstract and biography may be requested.

The following types of papers are expected:
●  Short papers: 10’ presentation + 5’ Q&A
●  Long papers: 20’ presentation + 10’ Q&A
●  Flash talks: 5 minutes, 2 slides (powerpoint)


Claire Andrieu
(University Professor, Sciences Po)
Karine le Bail (Research Fellow, CNRS)
Frank P. Bär (Head of Instrumental Collection and Research Services, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg; President of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Instruments and Music, ICOM-CIMCIM)
Pascale Bernheim (Co-Founder of Musique et Spoliations)
Myriam Chimènes (Emeritus Research Director, CNRS)
Jean-Marc Dreyfus (University of Manchester; Associated Researcher, Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po)
Jean-Philippe Échard (Curator in charge of string instruments, Musée de la musique)
Corinne Hershkovitch (Lawyer, Co-Founder of Musique et Spoliations)
Emmanuel Hondré (Director of the concerts and performances department, Cité de la musique-Philharmonie de Paris)
Christine Laloue (Curator in charge of private archives, harpsichords and artworks, Musée de la musique)
Monika Löscher (Provenance Research Commission, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien)
Jonathan Marolle (Partner of the Atelier Vatelot-Rampal, Expert violin maker for the Paris Court of Appeal)
Marie-Pauline Martin (Director of the Musée de la Musique, Cité de la Musique – Philharmonie de Paris)
France Nerlich (Art historian, university professor, director of the department of studies and research of the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art)
Emmanuelle Polack (Project Manager, Musée du Louvre)
Jean-Jacques Rampal (Chairman and Managing Director of S.A.S. Vatelot-Rampal, Expert violin maker at the Paris Court of Appeal accredited by the Court of Cassation)
Inès Rotermund-Reynard (Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, Project manager of the Répertoire des acteurs du marché de l'art en France sous l'Occupation, member of the CIVS)
Yannick Simon (University Professor, Toulouse - Jean Jaurès University)
David Zivie (Director of the Mission for the Research and Restitution of Cultural Property Looted between 1933 and 1945, Ministry of Culture)

30 May 2021: Conference announced. Request for written submissions issued.
30 September 2021: Deadline for submission of written proposals
26 October 2021: Booking for the conference opens.
Before 30 November 2021: Written proposals selected (all contributors will be informed as to whether or not their submission has been selected).
15 December 2021: Conference programme announced.


Three days of communication, from Thursday 7 to Saturday 9 April 2022, in the conference room (Philharmonie de Paris). Conference free of charge.

Free admission upon reservation.

Languages: English and French (simultaneous translation).

Please note that travel and accommodation costs are not covered by the organisers. Contributors who have difficulties in financing their attendance are eligible for a limited number of grants, reserved in priority for young researchers. Persons interested in applying for such grants should state this when submitting their paper and should include a copy of their identity card. Successful applicants will receive a reply by 30 November 2021 at the latest.


Equipped with several auditoriums, a museum, a media library and learning spaces, the Cité de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris is a groundbreaking project. Building on these strengths, it has given itself the task of rethinking the role of music in society, placing it at the core of a welcoming facility that fosters all forms of music appreciation. Located in an up-and-coming eastern Parisian neighbourhood, it is a bridge between the capital and its surroundings and aims to be a gathering place for all. The institution is associated to the world of research in different frameworks: the laboratory of the Musée de la musique, the orchestras Démos and several other educational projects. Each season, it organises several symposiums attended by specialists and general audience.

More information here
Mathilde Thomas, Seminar and Conference Coordinator mthomas@philharmoniedeparis.fr

Conference website:

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