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Stolen tapestry is finally going home

A historic tapestry is handed over from Sheffield University to a decendant of the original owner. Deputy Vice Chancellor Paul White, left, with Comte Jaques de la Rochefoucauld who has travelled from France to collect it

A historic tapestry is handed over from Sheffield University to a decendant of the original owner. Deputy Vice Chancellor Paul White, left, with Comte Jaques de la Rochefoucauld who has travelled from France to collect it

A historic tapestry looted from a French chateau by the Nazis has been returned to its rightful owners after spending over 50 years at Sheffield University.

The early 18th century treasure was unwittingly bought by the university on the open market in London in 1959.

Its story has only recently emerged after officers worked with the Art Loss Register to help track its origins.

The owner of the Château de Versainville in Normandy, the Comte Jacques de la Rochefoucauld, travelled to Sheffield to see the work, which dates back to the reign of Louis XIV.

It is thought to have been created around 1720 and shows a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

The tapestry was stolen from the chateau by German soldiers at a time when the original Comte and his wife were both imprisoned in concentration camps.

Comte Bernard de la Rochefoucauld had been an active member of the French Resistance prior to his arrest in Paris in 1943 and later died in a concentration camp, though his wife survived the war.

Two other tapestries taken at the same time have never been traced.

The Château de Versainville has undergone significant renovation during recent years in a bid to restore it to its former glory.

When the tapestry is returned it will be exhibited with a plaque marking its return.

Comte Jacques said: “I am delighted by this news and touched by the generosity of the University of Sheffield in making so kind a gesture.

“The example that the university has set is one which I hope others will follow in due course, and demonstrates their respect for those who have suffered in the past from the ravages of war.

“In the year marking the 70th anniversary of the death of Comte Bernard de la Rochefoucauld this donation brings us great happiness.”

University heritage officer Lynne Fox said: “We are delighted to see the tapestry returned to its rightful home at the Château de Versainville and are very pleased to have been able to assist in this process.

“We were as surprised as anyone to discover the history of the tapestry but have been working extremely hard to ensure it is returned to the Château where it can be appreciated in its original home.”

James Ratcliffe, director of recoveries at the Art Loss Register, said: “It has been a pleasure to assist in the restoration of this tapestry to its rightful home. We are extremely grateful to the university for their assistance and generosity. It is always satisfying to bring restitution cases to a conclusion.”

 

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