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Not all looted art is Nazi looted art, of course, and having located this likeness of the Prussian statesman in a provincial Welsh auction room, the German government now want him back.

According to the provenance supplied by the vendor to Carmarthen auctioneers Peter Francis, the canvas had been vandalised by a Russian bayonet when it was discovered by the non-com from the Devon and Dorset regiment, and this explained its reduced size of 2ft 8in by 2ft 5in (82 x 74cm) and the estimate of £1200-1600. It was due to be sold on December 6, but the German embassy in London got wind of proceedings and the auctioneers, who are not under investigation and have offered full co-operation, agreed to withdraw the picture. “The German government contest that title to the picture, which reputedly once hung in the Reichstag ,remains theirs,” said the auctioneers in a statement.

A German government spokesman admitted that the value of the painting “was nothing to get excited about”. But clearly, a sense of Prussian pride had suffered. “This is a matter of principle,” said the spokesman. The portrait has been taken into custody by Welsh police, pending a resolution of the dispute.