Bust of Diana lost during the war returned to the Royal Łazienki
A marble bust of the ancient goddess Diana which was lost during World War II has returned to the Royal Łazienki. The 18th century sculpture, which was found in a Vienna auction house, has been officially entrusted to the Museum by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage - Professor Piotr Gliński. Diana is beautiful. It is remarkable that this work of art is with us again - said Professor Gliński during the press conference.
Among the attendants of the official handover of Diana’s bust to the Museum, which took place in the Palace on the Isle, were the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Professor Piotr Gliński, the Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Jacek Miler, the Director of the Royal Łazienki Museum Tadeusz Zielniewicz, and the people responsible for the recovery of the work of art: representatives of the Art Recovery Group company, the Polish ambassador in Austria Artur Lorkowski, and Ewa Ziembińska from the National Museum in Warsaw.
- It is Christmas time and we could not imagine a better gift to the Royal Łazienki Museum than the return of Diana to the Palace on the Isle after several decades - said Director Tadeusz Zielniewicz. He also added that almost every year some lost piece of art is returned to the Museum. - In the Salle de Salomon one can see the gilded appliqué which was found at an auction in London in 2011. In the apartment on the first floor there is the card table which was discovered at an auction in Munich. Last year we purchased an original painting from Stanisław August’s collection - “The Sleeping Venus” - Director Tadeusz Zielniewicz said, at the same time emphasising that he was delighted by the official handover of Diana to the Museum and “the first visit of the Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Gliński to the Royal Łazienki on such an important occasion”.
- I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the recovery of this work of art: Ms. Ziembińska, Mr. Lorkowski, the Art Recovery Group company, Mr. Miler, the Director (ed. of the Royal Łazienki) of the place which has welcomed the work of art again to its collection - the Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Gliński said after unveiling the marble bust of Diana. It is great that this work is with us again and stated that there were still many objects lost not only during, but also before World War II which are still searched for. At the same time, he declared that the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage will continue efforts to recover them.
- I am glad that I can be here to present the recovered painting and that the system created in our institutions functions well and lost works of art are recovered from time to time. Jean-Antoine Houdon’s sculpture is one of the most exceptional of the recovered works. It is unique - he added.
Ariane Moser - a representative of the Art Recovery Group company, and Ewa Zielińska from the National Museum in Warsaw received diplomas from the Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Gliński for their contribution to the recovery of Diana’s bust.
During the ceremony in the Palace on the Isle, Jacek Miler - the Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, recalled that in 1994 the painting "Washerwoman" - found at an auction in an renowned New York auction house - was returned to the Royal Łazienki. The next item was the appliqué which returned to the Museum from London in 2011 and a card table previously owned by Stanisław August, which returned to the Royal Łazienki in the spring of 2015.
- Today Diana arrives in Poland. It is the eighth object recovered this year by the Section of War Losses of the Department of Cultural Heritage. It is our record - said Miler. He also added that in January the Ministry of Culture and Cultural Heritage will present the next recovered object.
The Ambassador of Poland in Austria - Artur Lorkowski - emphasised in turn that Diana’s bust could be recovered also as a result of talks carried out by the embassy with persons who owned it. He also thanked his staff for their hard work on the matter. - The bust’s return marks an end to a story. There are many more stories like this in Austria. I hope that we will be able to work together to bring them to an end too - Ambassador Lorkowski said. He noted that the atmosphere around recovered works of art has changed because "people who own them come from the second or third generation after the war, which makes contact with them easier".
The marble bust of Diana sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon had been part of Stanisław August’s collection from the 18th century and displayed in the Dining Room of the Palace on the Isle.
In 1940, during the Nazi occupation, the bust of the ancient goddess Diana was looted from the Royal Łazienki alongside 56 paintings from the National Museum in Warsaw, and taken to Hans Frank’s headquarter in Cracow, at that time lying in the territory of the General Government.
From that moment the location of the priceless sculpture became a mystery. It was only in July 2015 when the 18th c. bust could be found in a Vienna auction house, where it was auctioned by a private art collector. The work of art was identified by Ewa Ziembińska from the National Museum in Warsaw and the Ministry of Culture filed a request for its return. The Polish Embassy in Vienna got involved alongside the Art Recovery Group company, which in this case worked pro bono. By way of an agreement the previous owner accepted to return the sculpture.