France to Return Nazi-Looted Paintings as ‘The Monuments Men’ Premieres

Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Officer James Rorimer supervises US soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany during World War II. Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration.
Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Officer James Rorimer supervises US soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany during World War II. Photo courtesy of the US National Archives and Records Administration.

Inspired by the premiere of The Monuments Men, which hits French theaters Wednesday, France will be returning three paintings to the descendants of their original owners. The George Clooney film recounts the true story of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, a unit in the allied forces dedicated to preserving cultural landmarks and recovering artwork stolen by the Nazis.

The three paintings are Flemish master Joos de Momper’s Mountain Landscape, seized from Belgian banker Baron Cassel van Doorn, despite his lack of Jewish ancestry; an eighteenth century work attributed to Louis Tocqué titled Portrait of a Woman, taken in 1935 from Berlin-based Jewish art dealers Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer; and Virgin With Child, thought to be from the school of Lippo Memmi, if not by the artist himself, which Nazis stole from banker Richard Soepkez in Cannes in 1944.

According to RFI, in the last 20 years about 70 works that were stolen by the Nazis have been returned by the French government, but the country’s museums still hold about 2,000 artworks whose owners remain unidentified.


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