The Indiana University Art Museum is returning a painting called The Flagellation of Christ to a Berlin art museum after verifying the painting had been looted from Berlin by a British soldier after World War II. Indiana University Art Museum Associate Director for Editorial Services Linda Baden says a German museum contacted IU in 2004, believing the painting had originally belonged to them. Curators subsequently embarked on a two-year long research project into the history of the painting, Baden says.
“From the back of the painting we could see a marking that indicated that it belonged to a collection of a very important collector from the 19th century, ” Baden said.
From that information they determined that the collector, Edward Solly, sold his collection in 1821 to the King of Germany. The painting was later moved to a small hunting palace that was converted into a museum outside Berlin. The painting remained there until the British soldier looted it and took it back to England, where it ended up in the hands of an art dealer. It was through that art dealer that former IU President Herman Wells bought the painting and brought it back to Bloomington. He kept it in his home but later donated it to the IU Art Museum.
“By the time he purchased it all the history of it having been in a German museum had kind of been wiped out and by that,” Baden said. “I mean there had been originally probably a sticker on the back of the painting that had indicated it in this German collection that no longer existed.”
The German museum delayed getting the painting until now because it’s been undergoing an extensive renovation. IU president Michael McRobbie will return the painting during a ceremony on Monday.