French Chateau Receives 18th-Century Tapestry

During the Second World War, an 18th-century tapestry was looted from a French chateau belonging to a wealthy Frenchman. It was recovered by the Allies sometime thereafter, but was not immediately given back to its owner. After spending more than five decades in storage at a university in England, the Chateau de Versainville will now once again receive the 18th-century tapestry that was looted so many years ago.

The Chateau de Versainville, a wealthy home in Normandy, was one of many homes raided during the French occupation by the Nazis. Millions of British pounds worth of goods were taken from this one chateau alone. These included all manner of antiques and artworks, including the 18th-centurytapestry, which measures twelve feet in height. The former owner was a part of the Marquis. The Comte Bernard de la Rochefoucauld joined the uprising of France against the Nazis, but unfortunately was captured and met his death in one of the many horrible labor camps.

After the piece was found, the University of Sheffield purchased it for a mild sum, not knowing anything of its previous history. They did not learn of this history, in fact, until they attempted to resell the 18th-century tapestry themselves. Rather than continue with the sale, they decided the proper thing to do was to return it to the home where it had been for more than two hundred years before it was stolen by opposing forces in the Second World War.

The artwork depicts a scene from Metamorphoses, by Ovid. While the University of Sheffield only spent about thirteen hundred British pounds on the piece, it is actually valued at tens of thousands. As it turns out, this 1720 piece of artwork by the Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory was not the only 18th-century tapestry taken by the Nazis during the war. There were two others, but they were never found. The chateau from which they were stolen is in a much different state than it once was, having been significantly refurbished, but it still belongs to the same family, The Telegraph reports.

The 18th-century tapestry will soon be back in the hands of its rightful heirs. The chateau currently belongs to the nephew of the former owner, who is touched by the university’s decision to return the expensive piece. The fact that the return of the 18th-century tapestry coincides with the seventieth anniversary of the previous owner’s death may be incidental, but the University of Sheffield is simply happy that they could be a part of the piece’s history.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE