Details of objects of unknown ownership in the Antikensammlung of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin have now been published

23.03.2018
Altes Museum

In a project lasting three years, all the holdings of the Antikensammlung have been audited to determine how they originally entered the collection, and in particular, whether any are objects of unknown ownership. The results have now been published in a volume entitled Dokumentation des Fremdbesitzes Band III. Antikensammlung. Antiken aus Carinhall aus dem Eigentum der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (211 pages, ISBN 978-3-88609-799-9, price: €35). The results will be the subject of a talk in the rotunda at the Altes Museum on 22 March 2018, when the book will be launched.

The term ‘of unknown origin’ is applied to objects kept by a museum but not owned by it, where contact with the legal owner has been lost or has never existed – for example, objects placed in the safekeeping of the Berlin authorities’ Zentralstelle zur Pflege und Erhaltung von Kunstwerken (Centre for the Care and Preservation of Works of Art) after the Second World War and later handed over to the Staatliche Museen.

“This publication closes one of the most grievous gaps in the documentation of our large collection of classical antiquities,” said Andreas Scholl, the director of the Berlin Antikensammlung. “Provenance investigations and auditing the collection’s holdings – for example, to identify cultural property confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution – have long been key aspects of our museum’s research activity.”

At project-close, the Antikensammlung still holds 157 objects whose rightful owners have not been found – including sculptures, sarcophagi, vases, clay lamps, glasses and metal implements. These are now being published with all the documentation compiled so far, in the hope that unambiguous ownership can still be established with the help of information received from the public.

The second part of the publication contains information about 42 antiquities which were once in the collection at Carinhall, the hunting lodge of the leading Nazi Hermann Göring, in the Schorfheide forest. These objects are owned by the German state and are on permanent loan to the Antikensammlung. Carinhall was destroyed at the end of the war, and the objects were recovered from the site at various times since 1946, most of them in a highly fragmented condition. During the project, these fragments have been thoroughly sorted for the first time, and their provenance researched.