Privately owned in the UK, the whereabouts of the commedia dell’arte group became known to the lawyers of the Budge estate only after its £270,000 sale was made public last month.
It was temporarily blocked from leaving the UK as the government seeks a UK-based buyer to match the price.
However, the lawyers for the estate are now hoping the figure will be returned. Berlin lawyer Lothar Fremy told ATG: “The Budge estate suffered from anti-Semitic persecution under the Nazi regime and the loss of this artefact was a direct result of this persecution. It would be the right thing to return it.”
Budge and her husband Henry made their fortune in the US before returning to Germany in the early 1900s.
Their collection of 2000 artefacts was sold at the Graupe Auction House in Berlin following her death in 1937 but, as the proceeds were paid into an account blocked by the Nazis, her heirs and the foundation she created never received the money.
Over the past 12 years the estate has won restitution claims on a number of pieces.
In May, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston settled a long-running dispute and has agreed to pay the estate an undisclosed sum to retain the seven commedia dell’arte porcelain figures by the Höchst, Fürstenberg and Fulda factories.
German food manufacturer Dr Oetker recently reached an agreement to compensate the estate for a 17th century silver ‘windmill’ cup it acquired from a Swiss dealer in 2009.
In 2014 a 16th century silver salt cellar in the possession of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford was returned to the estate and later sold at Sotheby’s in 2015.
DCMS said the decision on the export licence will be deferred until October 1 and could be extended until January 2018.