Nazi-Looted Art: Nursing Madonna Statuette Restituted

News from 01/24/2023

The SPK has returned a 16th-century sculpture of the Virgin Mary nursing the infant Jesus to the heirs of Jakob Goldschmidt.

Statuette einer stillenden Maria
Bild: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst / Marion Böhl Public Domain Mark 1.0

On January 20, the SPK returned a 16th-century statuette of a nursing Madonna to the heirs of the Jewish banker and businessman Jakob Goldschmidt. The work was acquired in 1936 for the sculpture collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (at that time still known as the Königliche Museen, the Royal Museums in Berlin) and had been on loan to the museum of Ulm since 1993.

“Jakob Goldschmidt was without a doubt a victim of individual measures of persecution from the very beginning of the Nazi period,” says Hermann Parzinger, President of the SPK. “I am therefore very pleased that we are now able to return the statuette of a nursing Madonna to the heirs of Jakob Goldschmidt.”

The attorney for the heirs of Jakob Goldschmidt, Sabine Rudolph, comments: “On behalf of the heirs, I would like to thank the Foundation for the restitution of the statuette and for the reparation thereby made to them for the injustice done to their grandfather in the Nazi period. We are very glad that the SPK has taken a comprehensive view of the special circumstances of this complex case and given them due heed.”

Jakob Goldschmidt (1882–1955) was a prominent banker and businessman of the Weimar Republic who was persecuted for racial and political reasons and because of his Jewish faith. In April 1933, Goldschmidt initially fled to Switzerland. In 1936, he left Switzerland for New York, where he died in 1955.

A large part of his extensive art collection remained in Berlin and was sold off in various auctions. Although it is no longer possible to fully reconstruct all of the details, it is clear that Jakob Goldschmidt was exposed to persecution, as a result of which he suffered considerable financial harms. In consequence of this development, Goldschmidt was compelled to accept the sale of a large portion of his art collection, including the nursing Madonna. In light of this background, the SPK has now restituted the statuette.

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