Notes and shorts from around the world
The secret of The Oyster Meal
For almost 30 years, a 17th-century Dutch oil masterpiece, The Oyster Meal, by Jacob Ochtervelt, has hung at Mansion House, the official residence of the lord mayor of London, but only recently has its dark past come to light. It was stolen by
a former Hitler Youth leader in 1944, after German forces blew open a bank vault in the Dutch town of Arnhem. The painting had been stored there, with 13 others, by the director of the local children's hospital, Dr JH Smidt van Gelder. It took four years of detective work by Anne Webber, co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, to trace its convoluted journey via art dealers and museums across Europe. At one stage, it was owned by the US ambassador to the Netherlands.
The Oyster Meal, valued at £1.5 million, will now be returned to Dr Smidt van Gelder's daughter, 96-year-old Mrs Bischoff van Heemskerck, who was overjoyed to see it after 70 years. She plans to hang the seduction scene above her sofa. “When I have it,” she said, “I will keep it as close as possible.”
A smart wristband that can tell a woman when she is pregant is being developed in Switzerland, as an alternative to the traditional home pregnancy test using urine. At the American Society for Reproductive Medicine congress in Texas, the team behind the device said they had charted
a range of minute physiological changes that occur after conception, probably as a result
of fluctuations in levels of oestrogen and progesterone. They include changes to skin temperature, breathing rate and pulse. They are now building an algorithm that learns both the wearer's normal characteristics and detects such changes so that the Ava bracelet – which can already tell women when they are most fertile – can also alert them when they are pregnant, within about seven days of conception.
The team, at the University of Zurich, expects the band to cost around $500.
Meeting the family
A 102-year-old Holocaust survivor who thought his entire family had perished in the War has met the nephew he never knew he had. Eliahu Pietruszka fled from Warsaw in 1939. His brother Volf later managed to get out – but was sent to
a Siberian work camp. Pietruszka assumed he had died, but recently he learnt that he had, in fact, survived, and only died in 2011. Volf's 66-year-old son has flown to Israel for an emotional meeting. “You are a copy of your father,” his uncle told him. “I haven't slept in two nights waiting for you.”
“I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.” Austro-English philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein
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