An intricate silver-gilt and enamel salt cellar is one of the 500 silverware items, believed to be worth in excess of £10 million, that was bequeathed by collector Michael Wellby – a former friend of Professor Timothy Wilson, the museum’s ‘Keeper of Western Art’ – to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, has been identified as Nazi loot. It therefore must be returned to the descendants of its pre-World War II owner.
Wilson said he believed that Michael Wellby’s father, who purchased the piece, “Would not have knowingly acquired any object which he had reason to believe had been looted from or sold under duress by a Jewish family in the period of Nazi rule.” After concerns over the provenance of some of these objects started to emerge.
It emerged that the salt cellar once belonged to the Jewish collector Emma Budge of Hamburg with her husband Henry Hamburg. The collector’s husband had made his fortune financing the American railroads; while Emma Budge had gathered an extraordinary collection for their lavish “Budge Palais.” after Wilson started extensive research on the collection’s history Together.
Emma Budge’s husband died in 1928, and the collector considered the idea of donating their art collection to Hamburg’s Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, but eventually Budge decided against it. This decision coincided when Hitler coming to power in 1933. When she herself died in 1937, the Budge’s belongings were sold via the now non-existent Berlin-based auction house Paul Graupe. The auction house has since become infamous for selling artworks seized from Jewish families during the Second World War.
The Spoliation Advisory Panel has apparently ruled that the sale “was a direct result of anti-Semitic intervention by the Nazi authorities” and has recommended its restitution according to a report published on Art Daily.