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The Ashmolean isues a statement on the report of the Spoliation Advisory Panel

1970
1945
Artdaily 20 October 2014



OXFORD.- The Spoliation Advisory Panel has, this morning, published a report on a silver-gilt and enamel salt (c. 1540–45) that was bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum in 2012 by the collector Michael Wellby (1928–2012) as part of a gift of nearly five-hundred pieces.

The Wellby Collection is being researched by a team led by Professor Timothy Wilson, Keeper of the Department of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum. Following the bequest, Professor Wilson’s research traced the provenance of the salt to Mrs Emma Budge of Hamburg, who was Jewish. Mrs Budge died in 1937 and the salt was sold that year at the Graupe auction house in Berlin. The Museum informed representatives of the Budge family, via the Commission for Looted Art, of the presence in the Museum of an object with this suspect provenance. The ensuing claim for restitution was then referred to the Spoliation Advisory Panel for a ruling. The Panel analyzed the circumstances of the sale and concluded that it was a direct result of anti-Semitic intervention by the Nazi authorities. The Panel recommends that the Museum return the salt to the representatives of the Budge family.

The late Mr Wellby acquired the salt in 1994 or shortly afterwards and there is no reason to suppose, in making the acquisition, that he was aware of the circumstances of its provenance.

The Ashmolean cooperates fully and transparently with British government policy on spoliation and it is the policy of the Board of Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum to submit all spoliation claims for restitution of works in its possession to the Advisory Panel and to follow its recommendations. The Museum will therefore return the salt to the representatives of the Budge family.

The Museum carries out extensive research into the provenance of its collections and publishes this research to facilitate the identification of objects and works of art that may be the subject of claims. Further information on the Ashmolean’s collections is available on the government’s Cultural Property Advice website.

The Wellby Collection was bequeathed to the Ashmolean in late 2012 and announced to the public in January 2013. Including some five-hundred objects of silver and exotic rarities, the collection is one of the most important acquisitions in the Museum’s history. Spectacular pieces by or attributed to German and Flemish makers, often bearing the arms of their original owners, form the nucleus of the collection, alongside a number of equally rare pieces made elsewhere in Europe. Although most of the pieces are made of silver or include gold or silver mounts, several incorporate ivory, agate, shell, lapis lazuli or rock crystal carved with the virtuosity that is typical of pieces of this kind which have long been highly valued by wealthy collectors and are now rarely seen outside museums.

The collection was put together by Michael Wellby, a member of a family prominent in the silver trade. At the age of eighteen he took a part-time job in his father’s business where he acquired a lasting passion for the beauty and craftsmanship of early silver. He opened his own shop in Grafton Street in the 1960s, specializing in German silver of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which he became an acknowledged expert. Both at auctions in London and on trips to the continent with his wife, Joy, he made many discoveries and acquired many rarities. Several of these were sold through the shop but a few exceptional pieces were added to the personal collection which was bequeathed to the Ashmolean.

The Museum is currently planning the redevelopment of a gallery designed to show the collection. This is due to open in 2015.

The full report, published 16 October 2014, is available here.

OXFORD.- The Spoliation Advisory Panel has, this morning, published a report on a silver-gilt and enamel salt (c. 1540–45) that was bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum in 2012 by the collector Michael Wellby (1928–2012) as part of a gift of nearly five-hundred pieces. The Wellby Collection is being researched by a team led by Professor Timothy Wilson, Keeper of the Department of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum. Following the bequest, Professor Wilson’s research traced the provenance of the salt to Mrs Emma Budge of Hamburg, who was Jewish. Mrs Budge died in 1937 and the salt was sold that year at the Graupe auction house in Berlin. The Museum informed representatives of the Budge family, via the Commission for Looted Art, of the presence in the Museum of an object with this suspect provenance. The ensuing claim for restitution was then referred to the Spoliation Advisory Panel for a ruling. The Panel analyzed the circumstances of the sale and concluded that it was a direct result of anti-Semitic intervention by the Nazi authorities. The Panel recommends that the Museum return the salt to the representatives of the Budge family. The late Mr Wellby acquired the salt in 1994 or shortly afterwards and there is no reason to suppose, in making the acquisition, that he was aware of the circumstances of its provenance. The Ashmolean cooperates fully and transparently with British government policy on spoliation and it is the policy of the Board of Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum to submit all spoliation claims for restitution of works in its possession to the Advisory Panel and to follow its recommendations. The Museum will therefore return the salt to the representatives of the Budge family. The Museum carries out extensive research into the provenance of its collections and publishes this research to facilitate the identification of objects and works of art that may be the subject of claims. Further information on the Ashmolean’s collections is available on the government’s Cultural Property Advice website. The Wellby Collection was bequeathed to the Ashmolean in late 2012 and announced to the public in January 2013. Including some five-hundred objects of silver and exotic rarities, the collection is one of the most important acquisitions in the Museum’s history. Spectacular pieces by or attributed to German and Flemish makers, often bearing the arms of their original owners, form the nucleus of the collection, alongside a number of equally rare pieces made elsewhere in Europe. Although most of the pieces are made of silver or include gold or silver mounts, several incorporate ivory, agate, shell, lapis lazuli or rock crystal carved with the virtuosity that is typical of pieces of this kind which have long been highly valued by wealthy collectors and are now rarely seen outside museums. The collection was put together by Michael Wellby, a member of a family prominent in the silver trade. At the age of eighteen he took a part-time job in his father’s business where he acquired a lasting passion for the beauty and craftsmanship of early silver. He opened his own shop in Grafton Street in the 1960s, specializing in German silver of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which he became an acknowledged expert. Both at auctions in London and on trips to the continent with his wife, Joy, he made many discoveries and acquired many rarities. Several of these were sold through the shop but a few exceptional pieces were added to the personal collection which was bequeathed to the Ashmolean. The Museum is currently planning the redevelopment of a gallery designed to show the collection. This is due to open in 2015. The full report, published 16 October 2014, is available here

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