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"The War Over Plunder: Who Owns Art Stolen in War?" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2020 9:08 p.m. PST

"The Swedes came at night, rushing through a gap in the walls protecting the Mala Strana neighborhood at the foot of Prague Castle. By the break of day on July 27, 1648, the invaders had captured the entire western side of the city, including the castle, with its famous collections of art, rare books, and astronomical instruments. Over the coming weeks, the Swedes tried several times to cross the Charles Bridge to seize the Old Town on the opposite bank of the Vltava River, but were repelled by a ragtag force of townspeople and Jesuit priests. Despite receiving reinforcements, the Swedes were stuck on their side of the river in November when news of the Peace of Westphalia reached the city. The Thirty Years War, one of the bloodiest conflicts in European history, had finally come to a close, ending Sweden's campaign against the Holy Roman Empire. N The Swedish army had been denied control of the commercial side of town but had achieved its main objective: the capture of the renowned trove of art, treasure, and curiosities collected in Prague Castle by the late Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II. For decades prior to his death in 1612, Rudolf had directed a small army of agents to scour the known world for unusual objects. There were paintings by Albrecht Dürer and Pieter Brueghel, jewels, precious stones, and ancient coins from Italy, the Balkans, and the Middle East, exquisite clocks from the four corners of Europe, and statues in stone and bronze. There was a horn allegedly taken from a unicorn, the jawbone of one of the Sirens who tempted Ulysses, and even a pair of iron nails supposedly salvaged from Noah's ark. Rudolf had commissioned a greenhouse in which his staff maintained a collection of exotic plants and a menagerie where they tended unusual beasts, including a live lion. His paintings alone took up seven halls of Prague's sprawling castle complex…"
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Thresher0101 Feb 2020 4:10 a.m. PST

"To the winner(s) go the spoils…..", or so I've read.

Raynman Supporting Member of TMP01 Feb 2020 1:50 p.m. PST

If the Swedes hadn't emptied the castle by the time they heard about the peace, someone wasn't doing their job. That stuff should have been crated and on it's way back to Sweden by the end of the second day!

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Feb 2020 2:20 p.m. PST



Blutarski03 Feb 2020 8:51 a.m. PST

A visit to the British Museum will answer any questions on this point.


Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Feb 2020 3:15 a.m. PST

In "modern" times its relatively easy. Ownership previous to a conflict creates ownership afterwards. No transfer by force (even if nominally per sale) is allowed by international law.
Before that, having custody of the items in question is often the only aspect that counts, so stealing (or plundering) was accepted. From a modern morale viewpoint cultural artifacts should belong to the culture that produced them, so in the case of the "Silver Bible" created for the Goths the Swedes have probably as much of a claim as the Czechs or Germans. Any work created in Prague or Bohemia should probably be reinstated, though it would be a gesture of goodwill rather then a compensation.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2021 3:22 p.m. PST

The War Over Plunder: Who Owns Art Stolen in War?



Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Jul 2021 4:33 p.m. PST

n "modern" times its relatively easy. Ownership previous to a conflict creates ownership afterwards.

So all art created in the Soviet Union still belongs to the Soviet Politburo?

The point is, that this seems to be an easy concept, but that's only if you pre-decide ownership and then retrofit your definition of "previous to a conflict".

The Muslim Brotherhood is the current ruling political party in Egypt. Are they heir to the legacy of some people who were there thousands of years ago, or even hundreds when the artifacts in the British Museum were taken? Interestingly, MB's own doctrine (from the 1920's on) says they are not heirs to prior pagan cultures, but rather to transform and replace them. There are parts of Islam and Salafism, though not explicitly in MB doctrine (that I have seen), that would call for the destruction of such artifacts.

Maybe before that conflict, too. NKE, then? Who is still here from that? And who says that an older dynasty couldn't claim them? And how do you assert it?

Maybe its not by politics or geography. Maybe it's DNA. I've got about 25% Coptic Christian heritage, a transformation from the ancient cultures that did not involve a conflict (i.e., in that case the Christians converted, not conquered). Maybe I should put in for some of the stuff. I'd love a couple of stelae on my lawn…

Granted, there are some simple cases, but I don't think that's most of them. We are not a species known for having a solid concept of "prior to a conflict".

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Jul 2021 4:34 p.m. PST

As the exorcist said to the lawyer, "Possession is nine-tenths of the law".

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Jul 2021 4:03 a.m. PST

still belongs to the Soviet Politburo

As the Soviet Politburo does not exist anymore, and nominally only "owned" the art for the people, they are out.

But anything looted should be reinstated to the current government of the respective region, most likely Russia. If, eg., the "Bernsteinzimmer" would show up anywere it would belong to Russia by international law.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jul 2021 3:52 p.m. PST

So it doesn't go to "the people". The people under Soviet rule is a much broader scope than the current Russian nation. So they don't get a option, even though they were militarily conquered by the Soviets and forced to contribute to its creation?

In fact, collectively (hee hee), everybody else could probably outvote all the Russians and deny every bit of ex-Soviet art to any Russian entity. (Not that anyone I know would do that out of spite.) That sounds "fair"..?

Blutarski11 Jul 2021 5:12 p.m. PST

Ahhh, "Bernsteinzimmer = the famous lost Amber Room panels. I would be thrilled to see this great European treasure found (I understand that a small panel was actually recently discovered hanging on the living room wall of a German WW2 veteran's apartment).

OTOH, the unbelievable post-war restoration/reconstruction of the Amber Room by Russian artisans makes a more than worthy substitute for the original.


Blutarski11 Jul 2021 5:13 p.m. PST

BTW, was the Schliemann Troy hoard ever returned to Germany?


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