Two Roman-era mummy paintings stolen by the Nazis from Felicia Lachmann-Mosse were returned to the family heirs last month. Lachmann-Mosse was the daughter of German-Jewish art collector Rudolf Mosse, a publisher and philanthropist who died in 1920.
The artifacts were confiscated with the rest of the Mosse art collection in 1933, and sold with more than 400 items at an auction in 1934. But Lachmann-Mosse had already fled Germany with her husband, reaching safety in 1933.
After the Third Reich placed the Rudolf Mosse Foundation (as the family’s Company was known once the Nazis (took control) into receivership, it “confiscated and disposed of the family’s artwork and artifacts at auction — published in auction house catalogs (Lepke and Union),” according to the website of the Mosse Art Restitution Project. “This documentation did not represent the entirety of the Mosse family art collection. Items were removed from the collection after the confiscation and prior to the auctions.”
The paintings described above are mummy portraits of a young man and a young woman, both deceased. When Egypt was part of the Roman empire, the traditional embalming and mummification included a painted portrait of the departed.
The two portraits owned by Mosse were eventually acquired by German writer Erich Maria Remarque, author of “All Quiet on the Western Front.” They were purchased from his widow for approximately $137,000 as part of a collection by the University of Zurich in 1979.
Mosse’s heirs gave a “financial contribution” to the university in exchange for the paintings, the school said, but it is not clear whether the “contribution” was voluntary or required.Hana Levi Julian