Swiss chateau's treasure trove to be auctioned
AFP/The Local · 18 Apr 2013, 18:12
Published: 18 Apr 2013 18:12 GMT+02:00
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Due to go under the hammer on April 27th in the medieval chateau of Gingins, a hillside village overlooking Lake Geneva, the 500 lots include other glassworks, furniture and paintings.
According to Geneva's Hôtel des Ventes auctioneers, who are handling next week's sale, the estimated value is between a million and 1.5 million francs ($1.1-1.6 million).
The sale was organised by the heirs of Czech-born couple Lotar Neumann, who died in 1992, and his wife Vera, who passed away in January this year.
The chateau near Nyon in the canton of Vaud was their home.
Born in 1918, Lotar was the son of a wealthy Jewish industrialist in Prague.
He escaped Nazi Germany's clutches during the Second World War thanks to a false identity, and in 1948 married Vera, who was eight years his junior.
The same year, a communist regime took over what was then Czechoslovakia, and the Neumanns emigrated to Venezuela.
Starting from scratch, they founded a paint and dye factory which was to make their fortune.
Nostalgic for their European past, they had begun collecting posters of the works of Czech Art Nouveau icon Alfons Mucha, and eventually their wealth enabled them gradually to buy original pieces.
In 1960, the Neumanns decided to move back to Europe, setting up home in Switzerland and buying the Gingins castle two years later.
They continued to collect art over the ensuing decades.
Two years after Lotar's death, Vera set up the Neumann Foundation which was dedicated to putting their prize works in display in regular exhibitions in the castle.
It was as such an event in October 2004 that the thieves struck, making off with 15 works by French master glassmaker Emile Galle worth an estimated four million francs at the time.
Among them were five of Galle's dragonfly-motif cups, made in 1904 and seen as a touchstone of the Art Nouveau movement.
The gang members — who like the stolen artworks have never been tracked down — took just five minutes to raid the exhibition.
The shocked Neumann Foundation decided to close its doors to the public after the robbery.
In addition to the art up for auction, the chateau with its 2.8-hectare estate is also on sale, with unconfirmed information suggesting it has been valued at 35 million francs.
The chateau will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday (April 20th and 21st) from noon until 6pm, as well as on Friday April 26th from 1 to 7pm, to allow for viewing of the items to be auctioned.
Among the treasures to be auctioned is this Tiffany lamp valued at between 30,000 and 50,000 francs. Image: Hôtel des Ventes