The painting had quite the journey.
Henry and Hertha Bromberg were forced to sell the 16th-century Flemish portrait — attributed to either Joos van Cleve or his son Cornelis — in Paris while fleeing Nazi Germany, the New York Times’s Aurelian Breeden reports. It subsequently moved between a series of art collectors and sellers before being bought for Hitler’s planned museum in his hometown, Linz. Hidden close to Salzburg, it was found by Allied troops at the end of World War II. Reclaimed by France, it was housed first at the Louvre, and then Chambéry’s Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Now, finally, it’s been returned to the Bromberg’s descendants. On Monday the couple’s grandchildren, Christopher Bromberg and Henrietta Schubert, received the painting at a ceremony at Paris’s Culture Ministry.
After the war, Breeden reported, France retrieved over 60,000 works of art confiscated by Germany during the occupation, quickly returning over three-quarters of them to their owners. Of the remaining number some 2,000, declared orphaned, were housed in French museums. Since 1951, 107 of those works have been returned to their original owners.
Speaking at Monday’s ceremony, French culture minister Audrey Azoulay said France would become more proactive in returning more works to their owners.
While celebrating the restoration of the portrait to Bromberg and Schubert, she admitted it was “very late.”