Heirs get restitution for Nazi-looted art

The heirs of a French Jewish art dealer killed in a Nazi concentration camp will get a piece of the upcoming sale at Christie’s of a Monet painting looted by the Nazis and acquired after the war by a Swiss collector.

“Haystacks at Giverny,” painted by Claude Monet in 1885, is estimated to be worth at least $12 million. One of several similar paintings of a pasture near the artist’s French home, it was acquired by Rene Gimpel, a French art dealer associated with the intellectual elite of his time and a frequent visitor to Monet’s home, according to the New York Times. Under the terms of a restitution agreement, Gimpel’s heirs will receive an undisclosed amount from the auction house sale in May.

Also, on March 24, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe and Art Recovery International announced that the oil painting “Portrait of a Gentleman” by El Greco had been returned to the heirs of Viennese industrialist Julius Priester.

The same day, a lawyer for the Rosenberg family announced that the family had signed a deal with the German government that would allow the 1921 painting “Seated Woman” by Henri Matisse to be returned decades after it was looted from collector Paul Rosenberg, according to a report by the French news agency AFP.

The Matisse painting was part of the cache of artworks found in the apartment of the late collector Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer who trafficked in looted works of art. After his death, Gurlitt left his entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland. The museum accepted the collection and promised to participate in a process by which German authorities would attempt to return any looted works to their rightful owners. The Gurlitt collection is worth an estimated $1.26 billion.

The El Greco portrait was sold by a series of dealers after World War II until last June, when it was noticed being put up for sale in New York. The Commission for Looted Art in Europe made a claim on the painting and a settlement was subsequently reached for its return.

A restitution agreement was also reached for another painting in the Gurlitt collection, “Two Riders on the Beach,” by Max Liebermann. Its provenance was traced back to Jewish businessman David Friedmann, who prior to World War II kept a valuable art collection in his home in Breslau. — jta