German authorities have released another 101 images of artwork found in a Munich apartment which had been stolen by the Nazis. This release, now totaling 219, include drawings and watercolors by Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso as well as the painting Two Riders on the Beach by Max Liebermann.
The works were found in the Spring of 2012 during an investigation into money laundering. The apartment owner, Cornelius Gurlitt’s was stopped on a train to Swizerland in 2010 carrying 9,000 euros in cash during a sweep looking for Germans with undeclared bank accounts. The works were discovered during a follow-up search of Gurlitt’s home which uncovered over 1400 pieces of art, hoarded in disarray, some lying behind tins and packets of food. Gurlitt was the son of a prominent German Art dealer, only one of four people allowed to seal “degenerate art” during the Nazi era. Gurlitt Sr., who died in a car accident in 1956, left all his paintings to his surviving family.
Gurlitt remembers helping his father remove them from the family house in Dresden, before the firebombing of that city in 1945, but claims: “I never had anything to do with the acquisition, only with saving them.”
Prosecutors believe up to 590 works in this collection were taken by the Nazis in their quest to either destroy offending works or build a Nazi super museum of art. It is believed that at least 200 pieces are well known missing treasures and several are unknown works. The Telegraph reports that the treasure trove may be worth almost 1.5 billion dollars.
Returning these looted works will not be an easy task. In the past, claims to looted art have been undermined by the legal insufficiency in establishing prior ownership. German authorities will have their hands full here, especially given the controversy surrounding the fact that German authorities didn’t notify the world of their discovery for almost two years. However, attorney Joel Levi, an expert at the restitution of works of art stolen from the Jews by the Nazis has said,”I don’t see a situation where even a single one of the 1,400 pictures will remain in German hands.”
The newly released images of the important works can be seen at the Lost Art website.
- Nazi Loot Heirs Look To Reclusive Hoarder to Recover Art (bloomberg.com)
- Why the Man Who Hoarded Nazi-Looted Art May Get to Keep It All (world.time.com)
- HARP: in pursuit of Nazi-looted art. The Gurlitt connection (voiceofrussia.com)