Eighteenth-century Harlequin figurines from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston's collection. Photo:

Museum of Fine Arts Boston Settles Lawsuit over Rare Porcelain Figurines

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has reached a settlement with the estate of Jewish collector Emma Budge over seven porcelain figurines that were sold in Berlin during the Nazi regime, Malcolm Gay of the Boston Globe reports.

The estate has agreed to accept an undisclosed sum from the museum so that it can keep the eighteenth-century Harlequin figurines in its collection. The objects were put on view on Wednesday in the institution’s Angelica Lloyd Russell Gallery.

Budge’s heirs had originally sold the artworks in an estate auction following her death in 1937. The revenue from the sale was put into an account at the M.M. Warburg Bank in Hamburg. However, the bank was then sold to non-Jewish owners and Budge’s descendants were forced to flee Germany. While some of her heirs remained, they were most likely denied access to the account and persecuted by the Nazis.

“It was hard to gauge to what extent the estate had a choice of how to dispose of the collections, so really what we were looking at was what happened to the proceeds,” said Victoria Reed, the museum’s curator of provenance research. “What we’re looking at is economic persecution that is directly tied to racial persecution.”

Thomas Michie, senior curator of decorative arts and sculpture at the MFA, said the works were “masterpieces by three lesser-known German porcelain manufacturers—Höchst, Fürstenberg, and Fulda” and that the museum wanted to keep the sets intact.