Sale of ‘Polish king’s sword’ sparks fury after being put up for auction in Germany
A sword thought to have belonged to Polish king Sigismund III Vasa has been put up for sale in Germany.
Posting photos of the weapon on its website, Berlin auction house Carsten Zeige said that the sword “probably belonged to Sigismund III Vasa and came from a pre-war Polish collection.”
It added that the sword dated from 1592 is 97.5 cm, the blade measures 83.5 cm, the width of the blade is 3.3 cm, and the width of the hilt is 16.3 cm.
Although the seller did not inform how the sword came into its possession, the asking price is EUR 30,000.
In addition, the auction house catalogue also lists the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honour, for sale as well as a rapier with a scabbard that belonged to Aleksander Józef Sułkowski, a minister and general during the reign of King August III Sas.
The auction planned for January 14 has now sparked online fury with many suggesting the items were stolen from Poland during WWII.
A report published by the government in London in 1945 about works of art stolen in Poland during World War II said that the Germans and the Soviets plundered about 30 billion dollars worth of unique cultural goods.
Only a fraction of this has been recovered and the list of lost cultural goods maintained by the culture ministry runs to over 63,000 items.
However, the list is not complete as many items were held in private collections prior to Germany’s invasion in 1939 and were not officially recorded.
Cultural goods that were stolen from Poland by the wartime occupiers appear from time to time at auctions in Western auction houses.
However, Poland’s cultural losses are not limited to the World War Two period.
At the beginning of December last year, another Berlin auction house sold a painting that was stolen in 1984 from the National Museum in Warsaw. Kandinsky's watercolour 'Composition' was sold for EUR 310,000.
Sigismund III Vasa was the king of Poland (1587–1632) and of Sweden (1592–99). He sought to create a permanent union between Poland and Sweden but instead created hostile relations and wars between the two states that climaxed with the Swedish Deluge after his death in 1655-60.
Posting on social media, Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage said: “Currently, there are no grounds for taking restitution action […] The provenance of the object is still being investigated.
“At the same time, experts from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage are verifying whether there is indeed a justification for connecting the sword with the Polish king Sigismund III Vasa.”