French police on Thursday investigated allegations of theft linked to the sale of valuable stained glass that once adorned Notre Dame, with auction house Sotheby’s insisting it had done everything by the book.
Two stained glass pieces that disappeared from Paris’ historic cathedral in 1862 ended up at Sotheby’s more than a century and a half later, in 2015.
One of the stained glass pieces depicts an angel holding a candle, and the other an angel holding a censer. Their diameter is about 40 centimeters (16 inches).
They sold the Sotheby’s house in 2015, one for 123,000 euros and the other for 111,000 euros ($132,000 and $119,000 at current rates).
A French association, ‘Lumiere sur le Patrimoine’ (‘Light on Heritage’), specialized in investigating cases of possible stolen goods at public sales, claims the pieces were robbed from Notre-Dame and filed a legal complaint on Wednesday for theft and for handling stolen goods.
French prosecutors told AFP they had launched a police investigation “for an initial analysis” of the allegations.
The pieces, believed to date from the 13th century, were made as a pair and formed part of the cathedral’s main rose window on the north side of the transept.
Sotheby’s said at the time of the sale that they were believed to have been demolished in 1862 by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, a famous architect responsible for the cathedral’s restoration, and were first sold by a stained glass restorer , Edouard Didron, sometime between 1877 and 1905.
On Thursday, Sotheby’s said it had complied with laws and regulations at the 2015 auction.
“Before offering an item for sale, we undertake all the research, due diligence and checks necessary to ensure that there is no legal obstacle to the sale,” the company said in an email to AFP .
The auction house said it had obtained all official permits, including export permits, and had notified experts and museums.
Sotheby’s said it had not been contacted by the association that filed the complaint.
Similar pieces were currently held by the Art and History Museum in Geneva, the report said.
Notre-Dame, one of the French capital’s most famous monuments, is currently being restored after its roof went up in flames in 2019.
The spire, which toppled during the fire, will rise again before the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, the new head of the massive reconstruction project, Philippe Jost, said on Thursday.
The wooden spire, which rises 100 meters above ground level, will be visible from the end of this year and will gradually emerge from the scaffolding once the roof covering is secured, he said.
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