A 450-year-old German artifact that was used to tell time and to make astronomical calculations will be returned to a German museum from which it was likely stolen, according to the Toledo Museum of Art.
The device, called an astronomical compendium or astrolabe, disappeared from the Gotha Museum in Gotha, Germany, sometime in 1945.
“This was a one-of-a-kind scientific device,” said Brian Kennedy, president and director of the Toledo museum. “It’s sad to see it go, but it’s not ours.”
Americans occupied Gotha during the war and many of the museum’s collections were moved in 1945 to the former Soviet Union once authority over the area was transferred from United States.
The astronomical device, though, was one of the few items from the museum that didn’t end up in the Soviet Union. Instead, it landed in the hands of a New York art dealer before it was sold for $6,500 in 1954.
The museum in 2013 received a letter from the director of the Gotha Museum, saying that it found out about the piece in Toledo and believed it was theirs.
Kennedy said they reviewed documentation, including photographs, from the Gotha Museum and determined that the piece on display in Toledo was “most likely one and the same.”
The two museums then reached an agreement to get the historically valuable piece back to its rightful owner, Kennedy said. . . .