Germany Hands over 14 Nazi-Looted Artworks from Gurlitt Trove

The Federal Government's Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Gruetters (R) shakes hands with heir Maria de las Mercedes Estrada (L) as heir Wolfgang Kleinertz (C) looks on during the restitution of a painting titled 'Portrait of a seated woman' by artist Thomas Couture, on January 8, 2019 in …
BRITTA PEDERSEN/AFP/Getty

BERLIN (AP) — 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.

A restorer works on a masterpiece from the collection of late German collector Cornelius Gurlitt during a press preview of the restauration studio at the Museum of Fine Arts Bern (Kunstmuseum Bern) on August 18, 2017 in Bern, ahead of November 2017 exhibition 'Dossier Gurlitt: Degenerated Art confiscated and sold'. When Cornelius Gurlitt died in 2014, more than 1,500 artworks, including valuable paintings and sketches by Picasso, Monet, Chagall and other masters, were discovered at two homes he owned in Germany. Gurlitt, the son of an art dealer tasked by Adolf Hitler with helping to plunder great works from museums and Jewish collectors -- many of whom perished in the gas chambers -- left his vast collection to the Bern museum. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

A restorer works on a masterpiece from the collection of late German collector Cornelius Gurlitt during a press preview of the restauration studio at the Museum of Fine Arts Bern (Kunstmuseum Bern) on August 18, 2017 in Bern, ahead of November 2017 exhibition ‘Dossier Gurlitt: Degenerated Art confiscated and sold’. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.