Looted 'Monuments Men' Paintings Hit Auction Block

Sotheby's Features Works Recovered From Nazis

By Reuters

Published January 27, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Paintings looted by the Nazis during World War Two and retrieved by the Monuments Men, the Allied group tasked with returning masterpieces to their rightful owners, will be sold at auction on Thursday in New York.

The works, which will go under the hammer during Sotheby’s sale of Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, were among the tens of thousands of works recovered by the art experts whose story is told in the George Clooney film “The Monuments Men,” which opens in U.S. theaters on Feb. 7.

“The scale of looting was absolutely extraordinary,” said Lucian Simmons, Sotheby’s head of restitution.

“In France, for example, 36,000 paintings were stolen from institutions and largely from individuals. The Monuments Men managed to recover and return the majority of those,” he said in an interview.

Two small paintings in the sale, “La cueillette des roses” and “Le musicien” by the French rococo artist Jean-Baptise Pater, were chosen by Adolf Hitler’s air force chief Hermann Goering for his personal collection.

The works were taken from the family of Baron James Mayer de Rothschild in Paris in 1940. After they were returned they remained in the family until the end of the 20th century. They will be sold as one lot with a pre-sale estimate of up to $500,000.

Another work, “Venice, a view of the Piazzetta looking towards San Giorgio Maggiore” by Francesco Guardi, once belonged to the French fashion designer and art collector Jacques Doucet, who died in 1929. The Nazis looted the painting from the widow of the banker Andre Louis-Hirsch in Paris in 1941. It could fetch as much as $300,000.

“It is not only a beautiful painting it has a wonderful history,” said Simmons.

The third work, “Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus, a cassone panel,” was painted nearly 600 years ago by the Italian artist Apollonio di Giovanni. It was taken from the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild and could sell for up to $200,000.

ORIGINAL NAZI MARKINGS

“It was unique,” Simmons said of the Monuments Men group. “The Allies at the end of World War Two saw a need to put together a team to do this. They were art curators, museum officials, historians, who were drafted into the army for that period.”

The works being auctioned feature markings by the Nazis who meticulously cataloged the looted items, as well as the numbered system used by the Monuments Men after they recovered them.

The Pater paintings bear the Nazi marking R70 and R73, signifying they were taken from the Rothschild family, while the Guardi work is labeled Hirsch 8, and the back of the 15th century panel shows BoR 58.

The stolen works were scattered across Europe and squirreled away in museums, salt mines and basements until the end of the war when the Nazi records were seized and the hunt to find the works of art began.

Last year German authorities revealed that Nazi-looted art valued at $1.38 billion had been found in a Munich apartment. The collection had been held by Cornelius Gurlitt, the elderly son of an art dealer of part-Jewish descent who had been ordered by Hitler to buy up “degenerate art” and sell it to raise funds for the Nazis.

An unknown number of works plundered by the Nazi is still missing and museums examine the origins of works in their exhibits. Simmons said the Monuments Men made a massive contribution in returning stolen works to their owners.

“People like paintings that are not only beautiful but also have a back story, and all of these paintings have this history, which in a way makes them more interesting,” he said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.