The vases were consigned to Christie’s New York by an unnamed source but it was discovered through the due diligence process, which included checking lost art databases, that the pieces were part of the unrestituted property that had belonged to Lucie Mayer-Fuld in the 1930s. The pair were valued at $120,000.
They had previously surfaced in London at an auction in 1997, and then again in another auction in 2000. When asked by ATG, the FBI would not release any details about these earlier auctions or say whether they were sold or withdrawn but did confirm that they were in a private collection in the US before being consigned to Christie's.
After tracing the identity of the vases, Christie’s worked together with the FBI to secure the return of the vases.
A repatriation ceremony was held at the US Embassy in Berlin on August 1 with members of Lucie Mayer Fuld’s family in attendance along with members of the FBI art crime team and a representative of Christie’s.
After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Lucie Mayer-Fuld’s bank accounts were seized and she became subject to an exit tax if she left Germany. She eventually fled the country in 1939 with only a few possessions, leaving behind her home and much of the art collection.
In July 1940, an auction house in Berlin listed for sale items from the Fuld’s estate with the Nazi government determining that proceeds from the auction satisfied the exit tax.
This pair of vases was listed as lot 198 at the auction, described as “two bronze vases, fire gilded, two-tone, French, Louis XVI, 1780-1890”. The vases were purchased at the 1940 auction by Ferdinand Knapp, an antiques dealer in Berlin.