Nazi Looted Paintings Discovered at Southern Methodist University





Based on new evidence about the systematic looting of art from Jewish owners in the course of hostilities in Europe during World War II, a pair of famous paintings on display at SMU's Meadows Museum created by Spanish master Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1618-1682) of Seville's Patron Saints Justa and Rufina, estimated to be worth more than $10 million, are believed to have been stolen from the Rothschild family in Paris in 1941. The Nazi ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg) code evidencing Rothschild ownership is still visible on the stretcher bar of one of the paintings; it appears to have been rubbed off the other. The Monuments Men Foundation, recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal for its work preserving the legacy of these unknown heroes, which it received from the President of the United States at a White House ceremony, is continuing its research to document conclusively whether both paintings were properly restituted to the rightful owners prior to donation to the Meadows Museum.

These paintings, among tens of thousands looted by the Nazis, were later transported to Germany and Austria where they were discovered in the closing days of the war by the Monuments Men, a small group of men and women - museum directors, curators, artists, architects and librarians - who volunteered for service in an unprecedented effort to protect the great cultural treasures of western civilization from the destruction of the war and theft by the Nazis. This group, empowered by President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower, formally known as the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (MFAA), counted among its key members Lt. James J. Rorimer (future director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Private Lincoln Kirstein (future founder of the New York City Ballet), and Lt. George Stout (future director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), among others...

... Robert M. Edsel, Founder and President of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to completing the mission of the Monuments Men, and author of a newly released book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History (Center Street, 2009), commented: "The Monuments Men Foundation is proud to announce that after more than two and a half years of effort, University officials at SMU/Meadows Museum have now publicly acknowledged the correct provenance of these two paintings by Murillo, and more importantly, have now, by recognizing the Nazi theft of the artwork on the museum's website, contemporaneously endorsed the "best practices" guidelines of both the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). This is a milestone achievement for the Monuments Men Foundation in fulfilling this portion of its Mission Statement by encouraging all museums to comply with the commonly accepted guidelines concerning objects possibly looted by the Nazis. While we congratulate University officials on taking this important step, we underscore the importance of their completing provenance research on the entire collection and publicizing those results. Additionally, we hope they will promptly follow the recommendations of the AAM concerning placement of the information about the Murillos' Nazi provenance on the AAM's Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal (www.nepip.org), which was specifically designed to enable those victims of the Nazis' looting to have the fairest chance possible to locate and recover their belongings. During World War II, two Monuments Men who believed in that concept died during combat trying to protect works of art from the destruction of the war and theft by the Nazis. It is no less relevant today than it was 65 years ago." Mr. Edsel added: "The Foundation's research to confirm that these important paintings were properly restituted to the rightful owners prior to their acquisition by Mr. Meadows in 1972 continues."...


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