The Monuments Men

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Marcelle Minet ( 1900-? )

Born in Virey, France in 1900, Marcelle Minet studied art at the École du Louvre. She then earned a certificate in library science at the American Library School in Paris, the first school of its kind in France. There, Minet took courses on the creation of card catalogs, the use of decimal classification and the management of archival collections. Through her studies, she became fluent in English and German.

In the 1930’s Minet was hired by banker David David-Weill, president of the Council of National Museums and owner of what was considered at the time to be one of the finest art collections in private hands. David-Weill was also a major patron of the Louvre. He began anonymously donating art in 1912 and was even said to have personally supplemented the meager salaries of some Louvre employees. In 1926, David-Weill announced a major gift of art to the Louvre and other French museums upon his death. The 300-page catalogue for this extraordinary bequest later numbered some 1,000 items including works by Boucher, David, Fragonard, Goya, Ingres, Daumier, Degas, Delacroix, Monet, and Renoir. Thus, as curator to David-Weill’s collection, Minet was placed in charge of some of the greatest treasures of the French nation.

The German advance toward France placed the David-Weill collection directly within Hitler’s line of sight. In 1939, as the David-Weill family fled France to America, Minet began carefully inventorying and crating the vast collection. 130 crates were shipped to Château du Sources along with other treasures from the Louvre. Twenty-two more crates were sent to Chateau de Mareil-le-Guyon in northern France. While Minet had evacuated most of the collection, some items still remained at the David-Weill house in Neuilly, which the Nazis ransacked before converting it into their local headquarters. The Nazis eventually found the rest of the collection, then stole it and shipped it to Germany.

With the David-Weill collection out of her hands, Marcelle Minet became a Capitaine in the French Army. In November 1945 she was named assistant to Commander Pierre-Louis Duchartre, member of the Commission de Récupération Artistique and former French Resistance informant to Rose Valland during her monitoring of shipments out of the Jeu de Paume. In December of that year, orders came assigning Minet to the Monuments, Fine Arts, & Archives Section, Office of Military Government for Bavaria, as a French liaison officer to identify works of art looted from France. Upon arrival at the Munich Central Collecting Point on December 19, 1945, Minet discovered the same crates belonging to the David-Weill collection that she herself had so carefully packed and labeled. She was immediately put in charge of the collection and began unpacking and recording each item’s description and box number while also gathering the required proofs of ownership in order to send the items home.

Marcelle Minet remained at the Munich Central Collecting Point until April 1946, at which time she was replaced by her compatriot, Rose Valland. Today, the items once belonging to the David-Weill collection and rescued by Marcelle Minet can be found across the globe in the collections of the Louvre, the Musée Guimet, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Museum of Man, the National Institute of Art History, and universities in New York, Hamburg, Leiden, Honolulu, and Stockholm.