A famous dinner table centerpiece pinched from a German castle more than 60 years ago is on its way back to the “vaterland” thanks to a settlement hammered out in Brooklyn federal court.
On Dec. 23, members of the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District approved the agreement between the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, where the $1-million white porcelain “Nereid Sweetmeat Stand” ended up, and rightful owners of the royal dinner service that was stolen when the Allies sacked Germany.
Museum officials agreed to return the centerpiece to the Dresden Museum, where it was once on permanent loan, after the German government filed a claim for it this summer, according to the Toledo Blade.
The stand depicts a mermaid raising a sweetmeat plate in the form of a shell. It was one of four such centerpieces in the 2,200-piece Swan Service dinner set for 100 commissioned in 1737 by Count Heinrich von Bruehl, a statesman in the court of Saxony, said the Blade.
“There is no lawful market for plundered works of art,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “[The deal] shows that we are committed to repatriating stolen art to its rightful owners.”
In the 1920s, the sweetmeat stand, the centerpiece of the collection, and 24 other pieces of tableware were loaned to the Dresden Museum in Germany for exhibition. During World War II the museum’s curator had the items boxed and stored in a nearby castle to protect them.
When the war ended, the curator went back to the castle and learned that several of the boxes had been opened and looted.
Investigators later learned that the stand ended up in the hands of a European art dealer who sold it to the Toledo Museum of Art in 1955. The stolen tableware has been on display in Ohio ever since — until curators from the Dresden Museum caught wind that their cherished exhibition was in the Buckeye state.
This is the second time in a month that Brooklyn Federal Court has facilitated a stolen art exchange. On Dec. 2, the U.S. Attorney’s office returned a $350,000 Edgar Degas painting stolen from the Malraux Museum in Le Harvre, Normandy, in 1973. The impressionist piece entitled “Blanchisseuses souffrant des dent” (“Laundry women with toothache”), which Degas finished in 1872, reappeared late last year, when it was put up for auction.
Banned from the USA
A convicted drug dealer who skipped out on bail and subsequently fled the country won’t be coming back to the United States thanks to a judge who refused to overturn his guilty plea and open up a new trial.
In recently released court documents, Dominican Republic native Julian Casada said he would not have pled guilty in 1994 to charges that he was running drugs out of a building on Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick had he known it would result in him being deported from the U.S.
According to his arrest report, an undercover cop approached Casada and an accomplice wanting to purchase heroin. Casada went into the building, got the drugs and handed them to the officer. A short time later he was in custody, charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Casada never returned to court after making bail, but cops caught up with him in 2001, arresting him on a bench warrant.
Casada ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor and left the country. But when he tried to return in 2004, he was stopped at customs, informed that his conviction barred him from entry into the country, sending him back to the Dominican Republic.
Last month, Casada challenged his conviction, claiming that he was never told he wouldn’t be allowed to return.
But prosecutors had court transcripts proving that Casada was told through an interpreter that he “may be deported at any time prior to the expiration of [his] sentence.” A judge sentenced him to three years probation when he pled guilty to the misdemeanor in 2001.
After reviewing the transcripts, Judge Joseph Kevin McKay dismissed Casada’s motion.