British panel rules gallery's Rubens paintings not looted by Nazis

AP 28 November 2007

Three paintings by Peter Paul Rubens held in a British gallery's collection were not stolen from their former owner by the Nazis, a government panel ruled Wednesday.

German-born art collector Franz Koenigs lost the works "because of business/economic reasons, and not because of the actions of the Nazis," according to the ruling by the Spoliation Advisory Panel, which resolves claims over art looted during the Nazi era.

Koenigs' granddaughter, Christine Koenigs, had sought the return of the 17th-century paintings — "St. Gregory the Great With Ss. Maurus and Papianus and St. Domitilla with Ss. Nereus and Achilleus," "The Conversion of St. Paul" and "The Bounty of James I Triumphing Over Avarice" — from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.

The panel said Koenigs had given the paintings to the Lisser and Rosenkranz Bank in Hamburg in 1935 as collateral for a loan.

The largely Jewish-owned bank later moved to The Netherlands, and in 1940, with German invasion looming, it went into liquidation and called in Koenig's loan. When he did not repay it, "the bank then sold the paintings as it was entitled to do under the loan agreement."

The paintings were sold to an art collector who left them to the Home House Society, precursor of the Courtauld.

The British government and the gallery said they welcomed the decision.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel was set up in 2000 to resolve claims arising from looted Nazi-era property held in collections in Britain.
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