Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could be asked to shed some light on the origins of a chandelier that hangs in her official residence, Bute House. It has been claimed that it may have been looted from a Jewish family by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The glass lighting fixture was said to have been "found in the street" near Cleves a town in Germany, according to an official guidebook for the house. But a report from the Holocaust investigation organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Center has now cast doubt on the history of the decorative piece.
Bute House, which is located in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh was property of the Marquess of Bute. It transferred to the National Trust in 1966. Between 1970-1999 it served as the official residence of the Secretary of State for Scotland and since 1999 has been the official residence of Scotland's First Minister.
The chandelier in question hangs in the drawing room of the residence and in the guidebook it says that Felix Harbord, the interior decorator charged by Lady Bute with the arrangement of her family homes, was serving in the Allied forces and was given the task of with repatriating works of art.
The guide says: "One day he came upon this chandelier abandoned in one of the streets of Cleves and had it packed in empty munitions boxes, which he addressed to No. 6 Charlotte Square. With the help of Edinburgh antique dealers, Lady Bute traced suitable replacements for the missing pieces of glass and successfully assembled and installed the light fitting in the drawing room at Bute House."
The Simon Wiesenthal research suggests it may have been taken from a British collecting point at Schloss Celle or that it may have been looted from "legitimate German ownership".
Harbord took up the post as a monuments and fine arts officer at the British collecting point near Hannover in 1945. The Collecting Point gathered all the art looted by Nazis that was found in the British zone of control.
The Wiesenthal report, written by historian Erin Gibbons, says: "A number of matters arise from the chandelier affair. In this instance, Harbord had established a means of removing, from Germany, an unprovenanced artwork by placing it in an empty munitions box and addressing it to a client in Scotland. Further research is required to try to establish the origins of the chandelier in question."
The Scottish government has asked the National Trust for Scotland to investigate claims by the Wiesenthal centre as to the origin of the chandelier in question.