Art: Trinkets for Treasures

For six years, Dr. Johannes Itten, director of Zurich's Kunstgewerbemuseum had glumly watched while the Swiss government dickered futilely with Russian-controlled East Germany for the return of 23 valuable oriental sculptures belonging to his museum. The Russians had picked them up at war's end and presented them as spoils of war to their German satellite.

Then one morning, Dr. Itten spotted a newspaper notice of the death of Titus Kammerer, host to Nikolai Lenin during his exile in Switzerland. Hastening to the bereaved home, Itten struck a bargain with Kammerer's son for a tea glass, a strainer and two butter knives, the...

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