Nazi-looted Henri Matisse From Gurlitt Collection Restitution Deal Reached

Cornelius Gurlitt

London-based solicitor Christopher Marinello, working for the Rosenberg family, trying to retrieve a long-lost Matisse painting looted by the Nazis said on Tuesday that a deal has now been signed with the German government for its restitution. This comes after a lengthy wait for the restitution of works from the ‘Munich Art Trove’ to actually commence.

With the Rosenberg solicitor recently stating, “Bureaucracy is meant to serve and assist the people. The people are not meant to serve the Bureaucracy.” The owner of Carl Spitzweg’s Musician Pair, Martha Hinrichsen, added “The delay proved to me that Germany doesn’t make it easy for legitimate heirs to get their art back. Especially as documents accepted in previous restitution cases are now invalid.”

But finally the order has been signed by German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters, which has now paved the way for the 1921 masterpiece “Seated Woman” to be handed back.

“I can confirm that an agreement has been signed for restitution of the Rosenberg Matisse,” Marinello told AFP in an email, “the signed agreement must now be ‘approved’ by the probate court before a date can be set for the painting’s return. I expect this to be a pro forma exercise and anticipate a visit to Munich very shortly” to reclaim the painting, he added.

The breakthrough in the case came after Kunstmuseum Bern (Museum of Fine Arts Bern), Switzerland accepted the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt’s 1,400 works that has been bequeathed to the museum by German collector. But the Bavarian culture ministry later announced in a statement that the taskforce charged with discovering the rightful heirs to the collection of Nazi looted art kept by the late art hoarder would miss its self-imposed deadline.

Gurlitt the son of a notorious Nazi art dealer whose secret collection included many Third Reich looted pieces, died last year aged 81. He passed away on the 6th May in his Munich apartment, which was used to store 1,400 valuable works of art including Picasso, Matisse and Monet masterpieces said to be worth in excess of 800 million euros. A press release sent by his spokesman, Stephan Holzinger stated, “With the death of Cornelius Gurlitt, the investigation also ends”.

Before his death,Gurlitt had agreed that if works were shown to have been looted by the Nazis they should be returned to the heirs of their rightful owners. Many people, particularly Jewish groups felt that the works should be liable to restitution. The collection known as the ‘Munch Art trove’.

Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius’ father was a Nazi approved art dealer entrusted by the Third Reich to confiscate valuable works of art from Jewish families to be sold for the war effort. At the same time he amassed his own private collection dying in 1956. In the half century following his death his son continued to preserve the collection built up in the 20s, 30s and 40s.


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