search

Germany hands over 14 works from trove of Nazi-looted art

Culture minister says German authorities working to ‘fulfill our moral responsibility’ by determining the provenance of pieces found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s collection

Visitors look at paintings in the exhibition 'Status Report Gurlitt.  degenerate art - confiscated and sold'  in the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland, November 1, 2017. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)
Visitors look at paintings in the exhibition 'Status Report Gurlitt. degenerate art - confiscated and sold' in the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland, November 1, 2017. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

BERLIN — German authorities have now handed over all 14 works from the art trove accumulated by late collector Cornelius Gurlitt that so far were proven to have been looted under Nazi rule, the government said Wednesday.

“Piano Playing,” a drawing by Carl Spitzweg, was handed over to Christie’s auction house on Tuesday at the request of the heirs of its rightful owner, Henri Hinrichsen, the government said.

The work was seized from Hinrichsen, a Jewish music publisher, in 1939. The following year, it was bought by Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt — an art dealer who traded in works confiscated by the Nazis. Hinrichsen was killed at the Auschwitz death camp in 1942.

The reclusive Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014, had squirreled away more than 1,200 works in his Munich apartment and a further 250 or so at a property in Salzburg, Austria. He inherited much of the collection from his father.

Authorities first stumbled on the art while investigating a tax case in 2012.

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

Gurlitt’s will bequeathed the works to a Swiss museum, the Kunstmuseum Bern. A German government-backed foundation has been working with it to ensure that any pieces looted from Jewish owners are returned to their heirs. A trickle of works has been handed back in recent years as the painstaking process of provenance research made gradual progress.

Germany’s culture minister, Monika Gruetters, said it was “an important signal” that all the works so far identified as looted art have been restituted to their owners’ heirs.

“Behind every one of these pictures stands a human, tragic fate such as that of Auschwitz victim Dr. Henri Hinrichsen,” she said in a statement. “We cannot make up for this severe suffering, but we are trying with the appraisal of Nazi art looting to make a contribution to historical justice and fulfill our moral responsibility.”

She stressed Germany’s “lasting commitment” to continue with that appraisal and provenance research.

read more:
comments