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Charity to investigate Bute House chandelier theft claims

This news post is over 7 years old

A report has surfaced which claims the impressive light fitting in the official residence of the First Minister was stolen by the Nazis during World War Two

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is trying to assess whether a chandelier in the official home of the First Minister was stolen by the Nazis during World War Two.

The conservation charity confirmed it has undertaken a preliminary investigation within its archives of the provenance of the chandelier hanging in the drawing room of Bute House, Edinburgh.

The light fitting was acquired by the UK Treasury from the Bute family, along with Bute House itself, in lieu of death duties in 1966 and is said to have been brought to Scotland by interior decorator Felix Harbord in 1945.

A guidebook, published by the Scottish Government in 2002, on Bute House claims while serving in the military, Harbord found it lying, damaged and abandoned in the streets of Cleves in northwestern Germany and forwarded it to Lady Bute, who arranged for its subsequent repair and installation at Bute House.

However it emerged this weekend that a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Holocaust research organisation, cast serious doubt over that account in 2008.

It says the chandelier may have been "looted from the British collecting point at Schloss Celle, or it may be an object looted from legitimate German ownership".

Jennifer Melville, head of collections care, archives and libraries, at the National Trust for Scotland, which owns Bute House, confirmed NTS was looking into the allegation.

“With this particular chandelier, all we have to go on is the written account passed on by the Marquess of Bute’s estate,” she said.

“The scenario painted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center is concerning but we still have no conclusive evidence to confirm that the chandelier was indeed looted.

“Nevertheless, as responsible custodians, we will lodge details of the chandelier on the central spoliation database. This contains a list of artefacts held in the UK of uncertain provenance and enables anyone who may have further information to come forward.”



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