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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Virginia museum to return Nazi-plundered art to Poland

Associated Press

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will return to Poland a 16th-century Flemish painting looted by the Nazis during World War II.

Jan Mostaert's "Portrait of a Courtier" (also known as "Duc le Burgundy" and "Portrait of Charles VIII") arrived at the museum in 1952, a gift from a woman who had purchased the art from a New York gallery.

The oil portrait, owned by the Czartoryski family, was housed in a castle the family had converted to a museum. Duchess Maria Ludwika Czartoryski had the painting moved to Warsaw in 1939, shortly before the German invasion of Poland.

It was confiscated by the Nazis in 1941 and taken to a castle in Austria. It surfaced in 1948 in New York at Newhouse Galleries, which listed it as being from "an important European collection."

The Virginia Museum began looking through its holdings for plundered works in the late 1990s, said Karen Daly, the senior assistant registrar. She conducts research on art to see whether it could have been looted by the Nazis.

Daly said she is studying about 450 paintings in the Virginia Museum collection that may have been in Europe between 1933 and 1945.

"That doesn't mean all those works are suspect, just that we want to establish the chain of ownership during those years," she said. "That can be very difficult."

Daly said she found a listing for the Mostaert on a catalog of wartime losses listed on the Polish embassy's Web site.

"We contacted them, and they provided the documentation that showed the painting's provenance," she said.

The Mostaert is the second looted work the Virginia Museum has found in its collection.

Last year it returned "Portrait of Jean d'Albon," attributed to Dutch-born painter Corneille de Lyon, to the executor of the estate of Julius Priester, an Austrian Jewish art collector.

"Portrait of a Courtier" will be handed over to the Polish embassy, which will deliver it to the Princes Czartoryski Museum in Krakow.


Blogger Gustav said...

It's a start.

9/24/2005 06:56:00 PM  

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