Publicity about the upcoming release of ‘Monuments Men’ – a George Clooney film that depicts efforts by Allied forces at the end of the WWII to rescue works of art from destruction or loss by the Nazis – may have piqued consciences in Europe. Efforts are underway to return works of art stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War. French minister of culture Aurélie Filippetti presided over a March 11 ceremony in Paris in which three works of art confiscated by the Nazis were returned. These included paintings entitled ‘Mountainous Landscape’ by 16th century Flemish artist Joos de Momper, ‘Madonna and Child’ by 14th century Italian painter Lippo Memmi, and an 18th century portrait of a woman by an unknown artist.
Filippetti told the press that her ministry will be more active in researching the owners and provenance of stolen works of art, such as these. The event is the most recent effort by France at restitution. So far, the French have returned ten works of art in the last 12 months.
"Madonna and Child" was restored to Nicholas Florescu, a resident of Texas whose grandfather was a Romanian banker in Cannes. The Flemish painting depicting verdant mountains was once in the collection of the Baron Cassel van Doorn, a Belgian nobleman whose descendants reside in Chile. Until today, the painting had been at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon. It was one of the paintings discovered by the real Monuments Men, who sent it to the Central Collecting Point in Berlin in 1946. From there it went to France.
The third painting, a portrait of an unidentified woman, once belonged to Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer, a Jewish married couple who were art dealers in Germany.
According the French Ministry of Culture, there remain at least 2000 works of art stolen from Jews during the war. These remain to be restored to their owners.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.