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Through The Lens: The Kimbell’s Well-Traveled Bust

By Mike Kinney
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I am a simple man when it comes to art.  I like sunsets and western scenes so going to an art museum is not something I do often.  But thanks to an interesting little history lesson, I find myself wanting to find out more about the lives of the piece of art.

My story took me to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth where I met Robert Edsel, the founder of a group called the Monuments Men Foundation.  Edsel started the non-profit organization to honor the military men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives section after World War II, recovering and returning at that had been looted and stole by Hitler and the Nazis.

While researching for his latest book, Edsel came across a photo of the Isabella d’ Este sculpture coming out of a salt mine in Altaussee, along with 7000 other pieces of art put there by the Nazis.  Knowing that sculpture belonged to the Kimbell, he contacted them to let them know about this photo:

deste monumentsmen1 Through The Lens: The Kimbells Well Traveled Bust

Credit: Kimbell Art Museum

The photo led to two years of research by the Kimbell to prove provenance of the sculpture.  Provenance has become a big issue for museums around the world in the last couple decades as they want to make sure they legally own the art in their museums.

deste bust kimbellartmuseum Through The Lens: The Kimbells Well Traveled Bust

Credit: Kimbell Art Museum

It turns out that the sculpture was bought legitimately for Hitler from Otto Lans and then sold back to Lans’ daughter.  The sculpture later came up for auction in 2002 and the Kimbell purchased it for about $7 million.

An interesting page in the history of a 500-year-old sculpture that certainly piqued my interest in all the art that might have been stolen during the war.  I have to put the Monument Men by Robert Edsel on my reading list.

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