Return of church sculpture looted in Blitz

 Bust of Dr Peter Turner Dr Peter Turner is buried underneath the church A sculpture looted from a London church during the Blitz is to be returned to its former home.

The bust of Dr Peter Turner, an eminent physician and botanist, was taken from St Olave’s in the City of London on 17 April 1941.

The sculpture, dating from 1614, was recovered by a curator at the Museum of London, who found out about an upcoming auction listing the statue in 2010.

The Art Loss Register investigated and the bust was removed from the sale.

The bust, worth an estimated £70,000, was traced back to several owners across Europe, including one in the Netherlands.

‘Arm twisting’

Documentation accompanying the sculpture stated: “Presumably the bust of Dr Turner was salvaged from the ruins (of the church) but its history since the Blitz is undocumented.”

Investigators believe the bust was stolen during an air raid.

The Art Loss Register’s executive director and general counsel, Christopher Marinello, said he did not believe any previous buyers, including Belgian art trader Paul de Grande and another buyer from the Netherlands, knew the bust was stolen.

“I did a lot of arm twisting over the last year and have to give credit to the two dealers who were able to put aside their legal positions and ultimately consider the moral implications of this loss,” Marinello said.

“Both the Dutch dealer and Mr de Grande have reinforced my faith in the trade and their willingness to negotiate rather than litigate,” he added.

The Reverend Oliver Ross, rector of St Olave Hart Street, said the return of the bust was a “cause for great celebration”.

St Olave’s was finally reunited with the bust on 21 June this year, more than 70 years after it was lost from the building’s rubble.

A formal return ceremony is planned for next year and the church is currently consulting the Diocese of London on how the bust may be most fittingly re-installed.


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