Nazi Art Trove Contains Unknown Works by Masters

Seized art collection believed to be worth as much as 1 billion euros

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A massive collection of Nazi-looted paintings discovered last year in a Munich apartment includes works that art historians previously thought were destroyed and some other works that scholars didn’t know existed.

Earlier this week, Germany’s Focus magazine reported that in the spring of 2011, authorities discovered more than 1,400 paintings in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, whom they were investigating for tax evasion (the magazine later corrected the date after the German government said that the seizure occurred in the winter of 2012). Gurlitt, the son of an art dealer, has been described as a recluse who made his living by occasionally selling the paintings at auction. During the 1930s and early 1940s, Gurlitt’s father Hildebrandt helped the Nazis sell artworks seized from Jewish families, and the discovery of his son’s art trove has led to questions about whether these works were also plundered during that time.

Early reports said that the collection contained works by masters such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. Art historian and investigator Meike Hoffmann showed slides of some of the paintings at a news conference on Tuesday. “It is a very emotional thing to see that all these works of art still exist and were not destroyed,” Hoffman told the BBC.

“You could conceivably set up a museum with this lot,” BBC arts editor Will Gompertz wrote. “Art historians all over the world will be preparing to rewrite biographies of several modern artists.” Among the 121 framed pieces and 1,285 unframed works that have been catalogued, experts have discovered previously unregistered works by Chagall, Matisse and Otto Dix. Add in works by artists such as Picasso and Gustave Courbet, and the collection is believed to be worth roughly 1 billion Euros ($1.35 billion). A customs spokesman told Focus that the artwork was stacked behind piles of old food tins and other junk in Gurlitt’s apartment.

Since details of the trove have come to light, questions have swirled about how Gurlitt managed to keep the collection a secret and why the German authorities took so long to reveal it had been seized. The discovery also pushed the legacy of Nazi war crimes back into the news. Experts estimate that  more than 16,000 pieces of art were looted from Jewish homes by the Nazis during the Holocaust. “We know that from all the cases we have, that we’re trying to find…that 90 percent are still missing,” Ann Webber of the Commission for Art Looted in Europe told the BBC. “When I say ‘missing,’ some of them are in collections like this, and some of them are in museums that haven’t published what they have.”

Authorities now have to determine which pieces found in Gurlitt’s apartment were looted and how families can make claims, but those expecting some kind of criminal action will be disappointed. Augsburg’s chief prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz said that Gurlitt cooperated with authorities. There is no warrant for his arrest, and since he officially resides in Austria, German authorities say his whereabouts are unknown.

7 comments
brandt
brandt

This is really strange, having just finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

quatra
quatra

More than 1,400 ? In an apartment in Muenich? Yeah, also Santa Claus is about to make his appearence.

 

richard.draucker
richard.draucker

As usual, the numbers and claims are at least dubious.  So far, there is no evidence that any of the art came from Jewish homes, and yet the article declares the art stolen from Jews.  Then there's the bizarre numbers...

> authorities discovered more than 1,400 paintings in the home .. a customs spokesman told Focus that the artwork was stacked behind piles of old food tins and other junk in Gurlitt’s apartment.

Hmm...  1400 paintings stacked behind piles of old food tins and other junk? Must have been an awful lot of food tins and junk.  If each piece were a mere one inch thick, 1400 pieces would make more than 14 piles, each 8 feet high.  I didn't bother estimating what amount of floor space that many piles would have required.   

Now I suppose we'll have years of followup articles from Jews demanding they be paid billions of dollars in compensation with articles like this being cited as proof of their claims. 


jjbigmotors
jjbigmotors

.  for 10 days now there has been no contact with the japan populace. No twitter or facebook posting. Not since the 10/25 7.2 quake.  And our energy sec was just there on 11/01.  Did something too bad to tell us happen?

grantmacdonald2
grantmacdonald2

GETTY AND HITLER OPERA

Directed by Grant MacDonald

Scene 44: Interior crane shot—camera pans around the Getty Museum.

Close-up of LAPD Chief Beck holding a document from White House.

LAPD Chief Beck addresses employees of the J. Paul Getty Museum:

“Officials … have found several artifacts attributed to the Nazi era. Could all employees of the Getty Museum remain in the building -- the doors are sealed.  All employees of the Getty Museum … up against the wall … you’re all under arrest! Mr. Cuno; Mr. Cuno – do not go near the door – Mr. Cuno! Mr. Cuno has been shot -- Mr. Cuno!”

A voice in the background ….

“Is there something you don’t understand; Herr Getty? Do you find this amusing Herr Getty? What is it you don’t understand; Herr Getty?”

HillyBilly
HillyBilly

@richard.draucker I am an engineer, I have about 2000 blueprints stored in my pantry that I am yet to digitize it. If you go to engineering supply store, you can get sleeves for each and then you roll multiple of them together. I clamp them together and let them hang as I don't like rolled blueprints.

richard.draucker
richard.draucker

@HillyBilly  

I'm guessing you aren't really an engineer.  Neither am I, but I had a friend who was an architect and he assured me that blueprints can only be rolled and put in tubes temporarily for transport, but will be damaged if left in the tube for an extended period of time.  He had a special table that looked like a huge book he kept them in.  

I'm very certain oil paintings can not be rolled at all because the oil itself has depth.  I'm no art expert, but I'm quite sure other paints, water colors, chalks, and even sketches will be damaged over time if kept rolled because the chemicals in the paper or canvas affect the medium.  In fact, the paper or canvas itself will be damaged over time if kept rolled for decades. 

None the less, the article itself says they were "stacked".