German officials: 4 works kept by collector’s sister were Nazi-looted art
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German officials: 4 works kept by collector’s sister were Nazi-looted art

Benita Renate Gurlitt, who died in 2012, was the sister of Cornelius Gurlitt, whose vast art trove authorities found several years ago

The home of Cornelius Gurlitt in Salzburg, Austria, November 18, 2013 (photo credit: AFP Wildbild)
The home of Cornelius Gurlitt in Salzburg, Austria, November 18, 2013 (photo credit: AFP Wildbild)

BERLIN — German officials say they have identified four artworks that were kept by the sister of the late collector Cornelius Gurlitt as looted art.

The German Lost Art Foundation said Monday the drawings by Charles Dominique Joseph Eisen, Augustin de Saint-Aubin and Anne Vallayer-Coster were traced to the Deutsch de la Meurthe family in Paris, whose house was confiscated during the Nazi occupation of France. The Jewish family reported them missing after the war.

Benita Renate Gurlitt, who died in 2012, was the sister of Cornelius Gurlitt, whose vast art trove authorities found several years ago. The reclusive collector inherited works from their father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, who traded in works confiscated by the Nazis.

Gurlitt died in 2014 at the age of 81.

When Gurlitt died, he named the Bern museum as the sole heir to hundreds of works found in his cluttered Munich apartment, including pieces by the likes of Cezanne, Beckmann, Holbein, Delacroix and Munch.

Gurlitt, described in media reports as an eccentric recluse, hid the paintings, drawings and sketches in his Munich home for decades and another 239 works at a house he owned in Salzburg, Austria.

Gurlitt’s father was one of four art dealers during the Third Reich tasked by the Nazis with selling art stolen from Jews or confiscated as “degenerate” works.

Although German authorities discovered the collection during a tax probe in 2012, they kept it under wraps for more than a year until it came to light in a magazine article.

Gurlitt struck an agreement with the German government in April 2014 stipulating that any works that were plundered by the Nazis would be returned to their rightful owners and the Bern museum said it would honour that wish.

Heirs of collectors stripped of their assets by the Nazis, many of whom would later be killed in the death camps, have, however, complained that restitution has been woefully slow in coming.

Gurlitt’s decision to leave his trove to the Bern museum sparked a lengthy legal battle, which ended in 2016 when a Munich court rejected his cousin Ute Werner’s challenge to his will.

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