Monday, August 6, 2012

Art is loot

Nearly two centuries before Hitler’s art campaign, revolutionary and postrevolutionary French governments, particularly under Napoleon Bonaparte, oversaw many national political changes that implicated concepts of cultural property. Chief among these was the nationalization of the royal art collection at the Luxembourg Palace, later renamed the Musée Napoléon (and now known as the Louvre). Like Hitler, Napoleon envisioned a spectacular art museum bearing his name and charged French troops with confiscating art at home and in foreign conquests. Between 1794 and 1813, art shipments arrived in France nearly every year from Italy, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, and Spain. When the Musée Napoléon became too cramped with the spoils of war, Napoleon transferred art to regional museums throughout the country. Although the 1815 Treaty of Paris ended the war in Europe, most works stolen by the Napoleonic armies remain in the Louvre or in French regional museums today.

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