Japan Has Repatriated a Nazi-Looted Baroque Painting to Poland After Authorities Yanked It From a Tokyo Auction Block

The artwork, attributed to Alessandro Turchi, was on a list of the most valuable pieces taken from Poland during World War II. 

Alessandro Turchi's Madonna with Child was repatriated to Poland during a ceremony at the Polish Embassy in Tokyo, Japan on May 31, 2023. Photo: Przemysław Śliwiński.

A late 16th-century painting looted by Nazis during World War II has been repatriated from Japan back to Poland. 

The Baroque artwork, titled Madonna with Child, is attributed to the Italian painter Alessandro Turchi. Spotted by Polish officials at an auction in Tokyo last year, it was pulled from the block before bidding. The owner of the piece, who has not been named, agreed to give it back at no cost. 

The painting was returned during a ceremony yesterday at the Polish Embassy in the Japanese capital. It’s the latest of some 600 Nazi-stolen artworks recovered through Poland’s ongoing repatriation efforts, and the first to come from Japan. 

In a press briefing on May 31, Piotr Gliński, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister, commended the employees of his government’s department of restitution of cultural property. 

“Thanks to their work, practically every week or two we can inform about new recovered works of art—war losses that return to our country,” he said. “It should be emphasized that each case of restitution is different, and so is the legal situation, which is why we have to approach this situation in a different way each time. This time, the negotiations led to a happy ending.” 

An investigation into the provenance of Turchi’s painting revealed that it was taken from the Lubomirski Palace in Przeworsk during the war and transported to Germany. The canvas was reportedly on the Nazi’s list of the 521 most valuable pieces of art looted during their occupation of the country from 1939-45. Works by Leonardo, Rembrandt, and Raphael were also on the list. 

The first-known record of Madonna with Child is an 1823 catalogue of property held at the palace of Henryk Lubomirski in Przeworsk. Polish nobleman Stanisław Kostka Potocki was the previous owner of the work, according to the document. He’s believed to have purchased it during one of several trips he made to Italy between 1772 and 1797. 

Gliński said the artwork will likely land at the Museum of the Princes Lubomirski, a new cultural institution under construction in the southeastern city of Wrocław. Before that, the Deputy Prime Minister explained, it may go on view at a “regional museum” in Przeworsk. 

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