NEW YORK (JTA) – A 17th-century painting that was looted by the Nazis from a prominent Jewish art curator in Munich and ended up at the Louvre in Paris is being returned to the heirs of its rightful owner.
The painting, “Portrait of a Man,” was recovered by the French government and the U.S. Department of Financial Services’ Holocaust Claims Processing Office, which has helped recover more than 100 Nazi-looted works of art and returned some $171 million in assets to victim’s families.
Before World War II, “Portrait of a Man” was owned by August Liebmann Mayer, a renowned art historian and curator, according to the Department of Financial Services. After the Nazis rose to power, Mayer was forced to resign his positions at the Bavarian State Paintings Collection and the University of Munich, and on March 24, 1933, he was arrested and the property in his Munich home was seized.
In 1935, Mayer was able to flee to Paris, but his home was again looted when the Nazis captured the city during the war. Mayer eventually was deported to Auschwitz, where he died on March 12, 1944.
After the war, pieces looted from Mayer’s home resurfaced in Germany, and some of the artworks were repatriated to France. “Portrait of a Man” became part of the National Museums Recovery collection.
Attorneys for Mayer’s heirs submitted a claim to recover the art in 2012. The announcement of the painting’s return took place in a ceremony on Tuesday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.
At the ceremony, the superintendent of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky, announced that the department’s Holocaust Claims Processing Office has launched a new virtual gallery and database of artwork reported as lost between 1933 and 1945 due to Nazi persecution.