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Kuhn, Lt. Cdr. Charles L. | LaFarge, Maj. L. Bancel | Langui, Emile

LaFarge, Maj. L. Bancel  

Major, United States Forces European Theater, Chief of Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA)

New York architect Bancel LaFarge served as Chief of the MFAA section of the Seventh Army under General Lucius Clay, Deputy Military Governor of Germany. Arriving the week after D-Day, LaFarge was the first Monuments officer in France. In his first assignment, he quickly covered the small amount of Allied territory around Bayeaux, assessing damage to monuments and works of art, and discovered that the famous Bayeaux Tapestry had been moved to the château at Sourches for safekeeping. In the months that followed, LaFarge recovered hundreds more artworks, oversaw the development of the Collecting Points in Munich and elsewhere, and supervised a staff of officers dedicated to the salvage of Europe’s cultural treasures.

As Chief of the MFAA, LaFarge also dealt with the insurgence of officers displeased with the American removal of 202 German-owned artworks from the Wiesbaden Collecting Point. 32 MFAA officers signed or supported the “Wiesbaden Manifesto,” as it became known; a document explaining why they thought the removal of the paintings would be highly unethical. LaFarge agreed with their sentiments, but tried to protect his officers by not releasing the document and taking full responsibility. Col. McBride, National Gallery of Art administrator, informed him that the officers would be court-martialed if they disobeyed the orders of Gen. Clay. In order to protect the paintings from damage that might be incurred by military personnel unfamiliar with handling such valuable objects, LaFarge eventually arranged for Monuments officer Lamont Moore to oversee the packing and shipment of the artworks. Although the works were removed and transported for “safekeeping” to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., they were nevertheless returned to Germany three years later. Without doubt, the sentiments expressed in the Wiesbaden Manifesto combined with the united front of Monuments Men, including LaFarge, were responsible for the ultimate return of the paintings. For his service to the MFAA, LaFarge received honors from the United States, France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands.

LaFarge’s father and grandfather, both named John LaFarge, were noted American artists. A graduate of Harvard and Yale Architectural School, he resumed his career as an architect following World War II. Most famous for his residential designs, LaFarge was fond of the Beaux Arts style early in his career, later moving on to the modified contemporary and English manor styles. His work can be seen in homes across New York, the Hamptons, Charleston, S.C., and at the Caneel Bay resort on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. LaFarge served as president of the Municipal Art Society, the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and was a founding member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.


Copyrighted by Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art