The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the State Art Collections in Dresden, Germany (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), jointly announced today an agreement whereby five works of armor now confirmed as belonging to the State Art Collections will be returned to Dresden from Philadelphia, where they have been on display in the Museum's Galleries of Arms and Armor since 1977. Also announced was a series of exchange loans between the two institutions, symbolizing the spirit of cooperation that enabled the joint agreement. The loans arriving from Dresden--two major armors and a shield--will be placed on public view today in the Arms and Armor Galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The loans from Philadelphia--five 19th- and 20th-century paintings--are now also on public view in Dresden.
Originally part of the armory of the Electors of Saxony, the pieces that are being returned to Dresden disappeared from a remote storage site where they had been sent by the Dresden Museums for safekeeping during World War II. By the early 1950s, the objects had entered the art market through undetermined means. They were subsequently purchased in good faith by the internationally known collector Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch, who bequeathed his important collection of arms and armor to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1976.
The Dresden Museums formally requested the return of the five objects in 1995. After studying the provenance of the armor claimed by Dresden, the Philadelphia Museum concluded that they had been placed on the art market without the knowledge of the State Art Collections and concurred that they therefore remain the historic property of the Dresden Museums. The Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art unanimously approved the return of the armor to Dresden at its meeting on December 16, 1999, and both parties subsequently signed the agreement.
Returned to Dresden is a ceremonial armor ensemble, consisting of a gilded helmet surmounted by a dragon and a gilded cuirass (torso defense), made for the Prince Elector Johann Georg II of Saxony (ruled 1656 to 1680). The remaining pieces, four finely wrought colletins (neck defenses) made for Johann Georg and other Electors of Saxony, will remain as a loan from the State Art Collections to the Philadelphia Museum of Art through 2004, and then return to Dresden.
In addition to permitting the four colletins to remain on display in Philadelphia for the next five years, the Dresden Museums will lend three other major pieces from their famous collection to the Philadelphia Museum for the same five-year period: a massive field armor of considerable historic importance; a gilded tournament armor made for the court of Electoral Saxony; and a targe (shield) matching an armor in Philadelphia used in the jousts celebrating the marriage of Prince Elector Frederick August II of Saxony (ruled as prince elector and king of Poland 1733 to 1763) to Archduchess Marie Josephe of Austria (1699-1757) in 1719. In return, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will lend to Dresden five paintings from its collections: Gustave Courbet's Waves; Mary Cassatt's Woman with a Pearl Necklace in Loge; Claude Monet's Morning Haze; Georges Braque's Still Life with Fruit Dish; and Henri Matisse's Still Life on a Table. Four of the paintings will be on loan to Dresden for a period of six months; the Matisse will remain on loan for five years.
"Together with our colleagues in Dresden, we are pleased to announce the resolution of this claim arising from the chaos of World War II, and to celebrate a terrific cultural exchange, which now stands as the dénouement of a complex situation" said Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Despite the incredible confusion of the war's final years, when so many works of art left the hands of their owners--whether legally or illegally--and when the Dresden Museums themselves sent 10,000 objects to remote sites for safekeeping, we are now convinced, after extensive review, that these five Saxon pieces were never deaccessioned by Dresden and that Mr. von Kienbusch, a scholarly collector who was himself of Saxon heritage, had been misled about their provenance. The Trustees of the Museum have determined that the return of the objects to the Dresden Museums is the proper action to take. We look forward to sharing our own treasures with German audiences and thank our colleagues in Dresden for their thoughtful commitment to lending marvelous works to Philadelphia."
"What began for us as a quest for the rightful return of these five pieces of armor--all of which were war losses from the Rüstkammer--has developed into this wonderful partnership forged by two public institutions," said Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, General Director of the State Art Collections in Dresden. "Museums around the world are encouraged to promote reciprocal collaboration, so I am especially delighted that Anne d'Harnoncourt has firmly supported this jointly reached solution, which was subsequently confirmed by the governing bodies of both museums. The Dresden pieces that will stay in Philadelphia for five years, are now clearly identified as the property of, and on loan from, the State Art Collections. Reciprocally, we are delighted to receive the French paintings on loan from Philadelphia, as they will enrich the small but fine French section in our Modern Masters painting gallery. I hope that the cooperative spirit between our museums will provide an example for others to follow."