Stolen tapestry which went on show at Sheffield university returns home to France

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 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 travelled from France to collect it
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A historic 18th century tapestry looted by the Nazis in World War Two and went on show at Sheffield University for more than 50 years has finally gone home.

The artwork was made by the famous Beauvais factory in France in the 1720s specifically for the winter salon of the newly built chateau at Versainville in Normandy.

The original frame has been standing empty since the tapestry was stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War while the Comte Bernard de la Rochefoucauld and his wife were both imprisoned in concentration camps for their membership of the French Resistance.

But now it has returned not only to its home country but to the very frame in the room for which it was made.

The university unwittingly purchased the tapestry on the open market in London in 1959.

It was given a place of honour in the university’s main council room where it remained for 55 years.

Earlier this year research by university staff uncovered its history and immediately offered to return the work of art to its rightful owner - an act of goodwill which has been internationally acclaimed as a model of good practice.

The tapestry was handed over at a formal ceremony attended by the British Ambassador.

Deputy vice-chancellor Professor Paul White said: “We are delighted to see the tapestry returned to its rightful home at the Château de Versainville.

“Once the history of the work was established it was clear to all involved that it needed to be returned to the château where it can be appreciated in its original home.”

Two other tapestries from the Winter Salon are still missing and their frames remain empty in the hope that they may one day be traced.

The current Comte, Jacques de la Rochefoucauld, said: “The example that the university has set is one which I hope others will follow, and shows their respect for those who have suffered.”