Lampshade 'made from the skins of Jewish Holocaust victims' to be sold

A lampshade allegedly made from the skins of Jews who died in the Holocaust may be sold at auction, despite the protests of Jewish groups.

The lamp forms part of a controversial collection of artefacts assembled by Robert Lenkiewicz, a leading portrait artist who once famously embalmed the body of a tramp.

Jewish leaders fear the lamp may now be sold to the highest bidder to help pay off £2m debts owed by the Lenkiewicz estate and accrued by the artist, who died in 2002. Jewish groups say the lamp should be buried with dignity.

Most of the gruesome collection, which also features the skeleton of a 16th-century witch, will go under the hammer in the autumn as the artist's estate attempts to clear the debts.

Lenkiewicz was an acclaimed artist whose subjects included Michael Foot, Billy Connolly and Terry Waite and whose paintings sold for tens of thousands of pounds.

His family have reluctantly agreed to the sale after failing to raise enough money through other means. His brother, Jon Lenkiewicz, said: "The sale runs completely counter to Robert's intentions, but the costs are pretty enormous and the claims are large. It's a tragedy. It would have been so good to preserve everything."

Neither the lampshade nor the body of the tramp is part of the forthcoming auction, but some fear that they are bound to reach the market eventually.

The estate's executor, Peter Walmsley, admitted that the lamp might have to be sold eventually. "It's not the sort of thing we would put into an auction sale lightly," he said. "But it may have to be sold at some stage. I may not have a choice about it. Sales will be made to meet the claims of the creditors."

Jewish leaders have warned that any sale of the lamp - whether authentic or not - would be "revolting and inhumane". They called for its burial and a promise from the estate that it will never go into auction.

Lenkiewicz claimed the lamp was made in Auschwitz in 1940, but Holocaust experts dispute this. Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, questioned the lamp's authenticity. But he added: "If it is real, to sell it would be the most revolting and inhumane way to raise funds."

As well as his bizarre collection, Lenkiewicz also left 15 children - just two of whom were from his three marriages.

Once all the debts have been cleared, the remains of the estate will be passed to the Lenkiewicz Foundation, set up to protect the artist's legacy and look after his collection. The foundation's trustees now fear that little will remain. Many of his paintings have already been sold, as has a large proportion of his vast book collection.

A large outstanding income tax bill makes up the majority of the debt, but creditors also include those who have paid for paintings that Lenkiewicz never got the chance to finish. Mr Walmsley needs to raise approximately £2m to cover all the creditors' claims.

Lenkiewicz, the son of Jewish refugees, was born in London during the Second World War. He went to St Martin's art college at the age of 16 and later attended the Royal Academy. After moving to Plymouth in the early 1960s, he took over warehouses in order to house the tramps and alcoholics he had befriended.

Items included in the auction, organised by Bearne's of Exeter in October, are understood to include an ornate coffin, a series of skulls and the skeleton of a 16th-century woman hanged for witchcraft.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

£12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat