University of Sheffield Returns 300-Year Old Tapestry, Looted By Nazis, To French Family


The University of Sheffield has returned a 300-year-old tapestry to its rightful owners at the Château de Versainville in Normandy. The Louis XIV tapestry, dated to around 1720, depicts a scene from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is worth about £30,000 ($50971).

The historic tapestry that was displayed in a meeting room at the University for more than half a century was stolen from the Château during the Nazi occupation of France in the Second World War. The owners, Comte Bernard de la Rochefoucauld and his wife, were held captive in the Flossenburg concentration camp in 1943. Bernard died due to the treatment in the camp but his wife survived the war only to find their house had been looted by the Nazi soldiers.

After the war, the Louis XIV tapestry was smuggled into London and listed on the open market. The university purchased the tapestry in 1959 from an art dealer in Bond Street.

"We were very surprised and shocked. We were satisfied we had bought it in good faith and our immediate response was to give it back. We're sorry to lose it but we're proud to bring quite a tragic story to a nice conclusion," said Lynne Fox, heritage officer at the university, Independent reports.

Comte Jacques de la Rochefoucauld, a descendant of Comte Bernard's brother, said that the discovery of the tapestry is a "really emotional experience" and brings immense happiness. He thanked the University for their generosity and kind gesture.

"The example that the University has set is one which I hope others will follow in due course and demonstrates their respect for those who have suffered in the past from the ravages of war," Jacques said in a statement.

Jacques said that the tapestry will be exhibited at the Château with a plaque celebrating its return.

"We didn't know its recent history at all. We knew that it had belonged to the chateau because of the coat of arms on it. They were delighted to discover where it was," Fox said.

Overall, three tapestries were registered as stolen artworks in the war. James Ratcliffe, director of recoveries at the Art Loss Register, hopes to recover the other two missing tapestries that were taken at the same time.

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