Dozens of valuable artworks returned to Czech Republic

Photo: CTK

It’s not everyday you are given a budget of 10 million crowns (624,000 USD) and told to spend it all. But that’s exactly what a group of Czech art experts were ordered to do by the government on Tuesday, in a bid to bring home some of the Czech Republic’s lost art treasures. Christie’s auction house in Amsterdam was putting more than 400 items from the Liechtenstein family’s art collection under the hammer. Many of these items had once hung on the walls of Czech chateaux. And following the sale, that’s where many of them will be finding themselves once more.

Photo: CTK
Some 28 items were snapped up by the Czech team of art-historians - including a valuable series of tapestries, a set of chairs, and a painting by the Dutch artist Breugel. These artifacts are now set to be returned to their original homes – the now state-run chateaux of Valtice and Lednice, as well Šternberk Castle in Moravia.

Chateaux of Lednice, photo: CTK
But how did such items, referred to in the Czech press as ‘national treasures’, end up for sale in Amsterdam? Well, they all belonged to the Liechtenstein family, who fled occupied Czechoslovakia during the war. The Liechtensteins, an Austrian noble family with houses all over central Europe, worried that their property would be seized by the Nazis, and so moved, along with their impressive art collection, to Vaduz, where 60 years later, they decided to have a spring clean.

Chateaux of Valtice, photo: CTK
This clean out gave the Czech Republic the chance to refurnish the chateaux the Liechtensteins left behind. Šternberk can again expect to be brightened up by a series of tapestries taken down from its walls in the run up to the war. And Lednice can look forward to the re-arrival of Pieter Breugel’s Floral Still-Life, which the Czech state just paid one million crowns to regain. The curators of the chateaux up for a refit are calling the auction a ‘great success’, as are the team of civil servants who were sent to do the bidding.

There are plans to put some of the purchases on public display as early as this summer. The artifacts will be exhibited in situ at the three chateaux mentioned before. And pop along to Valtice in particular, which is set to house at least two thirds of these, the Czech Republic’s newest prize possessions.