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Heiko Maas with the wrapped-up painting
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen

Germany returns Nazi-looted painting to Italy

July 19, 2019

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has hand-delivered Jan van Huysum's "Vase of Flowers." It was stolen from the gallery in Florence by a German soldier in 1943.


German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was in Florence on Friday to return a painting once looted by the Nazis. The still life "Vase of Flowers" by Dutch Baroque painter Jan van Huysum was stolen from the famous Uffizi Gallery by the Wehrmacht in 1943.

Maas spoke of a "happy ending to an involuntarily long journey," alongside his Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero and Italian Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli. The German diplomat also emphasized the "deep friendship between Germany and Italy that has grown over many years."

Read more: Large collection of Nazi artifacts discovered in Argentina

Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt, who is also German, thanked Maas for his "constant, sometimes spectacular plea for the return of this artwork."

"Vase of Flowers" had been in Florence for more than a century at the time the Wehrmacht soldier stole it during the Allied invasion of Italy. The painting was lost for decades until the soldier's descendants tried to sell it through a London auction house in the 1990s.

In January, Schmidt launched an appeal to have the painting returned to the gallery, hanging a reproduction in the museum marked with the word "stolen" in Italian, German and English.

The theft showed that "the wounds of the Second World War and Nazi terror are not yet healed," the director of the gallery said at the time. "Germany has a moral duty to return the works to our museum, and I hope this will be done as soon as possible, along with every other work of art looted by the Nazi army."

Read more: How Germany has dealt with Nazi-looted art after spectacular Gurlitt case

Plundered art resurfaces

While much of the art plundered by Nazis has been returned, every few years new troves are discovered, bringing up old debates over provenance and ownership.

In 2012, one of the most famous troves was discovered in the Munich home of the late Cornelius Gurlitt. The collection included more than 1,000 artworks, many of which had been looted and then sold to his father, the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt.

The collection, which includes work by Marc Chagall, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, August Rodin and many other famous artists, has now been accepted by the Museum of Fine Arts Bern, in Switzerland.

es/amp (AFP, KNA)

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