75 Years After World War II Theft, a Painting Returns to Italy

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tags: military history, art history, World War 2

Compared to showier works in Florence’s Pitti Palace — paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian — the small “Vase of Flowers” by Jan van Huysum might barely earn a second glance, even if the artist was among the most popular still-life artists working in the Netherlands in the 18th century.

But its return to the Pitti on Friday, 75 years after a German soldier made off with the artwork, was a ticker-tape event attended by a flotilla of dignitaries including three ministers, one cardinal, Florence’s mayor and various diplomats and high-ranking military police generals.

“Today we render justice to history,” said Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Galleries and who is also responsible for the Pitti Palace. The return of the painting was “a very important recovery,” he said, adding that he hoped it would lead to the restitution of other works of looted art that were still missing from museum collections.

Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italy’s foreign minister, spoke during the ceremony of the “team effort” that had led to its return, involving German and Italian diplomats, justice and culture ministry officials and military officers assigned to Italy’s art crimes squad.

A special shout out was given to Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, who backed Italy’s efforts to retrieve the painting from the heirs of the soldier who took it.

The soldier may not even have known of the painting’s true value. Mr. Moavero cited a July 1944 letter that the soldier had written to his wife in they city of Halle, later part of East Germany, to say that he was sending her a package with a “pretty painting” that would look good in a gold frame.

Read entire article at NY Times

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