Deal reached on return of Nazi-looted Matisse

A lawyer representing a Jewish family trying to retrieve a long-lost Matisse painting looted by the Nazis said on Tuesday that a deal had been signed with the German government for its restitution.

Deal reached on return of Nazi-looted Matisse
Detail of Matisse's Seated Woman. Photo: AFP

London-based attorney Christopher Marinello, who works for the Rosenberg family, said that the order inked by German Culture Minister Monika Grütters had now paved the way for the 1921 masterpiece "Seated Woman" to be handed back.
"I can confirm that an agreement has been signed for restitution of the Rosenberg Matisse," he told AFP in an email, following a report in German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to be published Wednesday.
"The signed agreement must now be 'approved' by the probate court before a date can be set for the painting's return. I expect this to be a pro forma exercise and anticipate a visit to Munich very shortly" to reclaim the painting, he added.
Grüters' office could not immediately be reached for comment.
The breakthrough in the case came after a Swiss museum agreed in November to accept the controversial inheritance of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of a Nazi-era art dealer.
Gurlitt, who died in May last year, left behind a spectacular stash of art in his cluttered flat in the southern German city of Munich.

The artworks were acquired by his powerful father Hildebrand who was tasked by the Nazis with selling artwork stolen from Jewish families in the 1930s and 1940s.

A German government-appointed panel determined in June that the Matisse, whose worth has been estimated at $20 million, was "Nazi loot" stolen from Paris art collector Paul Rosenberg.

Grütters pledged in November that three such works including the Matisse would be returned "without delay" to the rightful heirs.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Switzerland, agreed as part of an accord with the German government over the Gurlitt inheritance that it would restitute any works found to have been stolen by the Nazis.

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Nazi era art to arrive in June and go on display in Bern

Artworks belonging to the controversial Nazi-era Gurlitt collection will soon be arriving at their new home in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Nazi era art to arrive in June and go on display in Bern
The works will go on display later this year. Photo: AFP?Fabrice Coffrini

The city’s Museum of Fine Arts, or Kunstmuseum Bern, said the first pieces would begin arriving in June, according to news agencies.

A museum spokesperson, Maria-Teresa Cano, was quoted as saying 200 pieces would be in the consignment delivered from storage in Germany. Many were in poor condition.

“We will not receive any works suspected of having being looted,” Cano said, addressing concerns that many of the works had been stolen from their Nazi-era owners.

The gallery plans to exhibit the works in November, in a joint exhibition with the Bundeskunsthalle federal art museum in Bonn.

The Bernese museum director Nina Zimmer said the pieces included good examples of classic, modern painting, including original expressionist paintings of the Bridge and Blue Rider schools.

The works are mainly drawings, watercolours, and prints, with very few paintings.

Following a lengthy legal battle, the Bernese art gallery was finally recognized last year as the legal owner of the art hoard it inherited from German collector Cornelius Gurlitt.

Gurlitt died in 2014, leaving behind more than 1,500 artworks, including valuable paintings and sketches by Picasso, Monet, Chagall and other masters.

His father was an art dealer tasked by Adolf Hitler with helping to plunder great works from museums and Jewish collectors – many of whom died in the gas chambers.

It came as a surprise when Gurlitt bequeathed his entire collection to the Bernese art gallery.

The museum accepted the collection in 2014, but left some 500 works of dubious provenance in Germany to allow a government-appointed task force to identify the heirs.

The task force concluded that one percent of the artworks could be shown without doubt to have been stolen from Jewish families under the Third Reich or sold under duress.