Final piece of Nazi-looted art discovered among a huge collection kept by reclusive German pensioner is returned to its rightful owners nine years after it was found
The last piece of Nazi-looted art discovered among the collection of a German pensioner has been returned to its rightful owners eight years after it was found.
Carl Spitzweg's drawing 'Playing the Piano' was handed over to Christie's auction house on Tuesday at the request of the heirs of its rightful owner, Henri Hinrichsen, after being found in an apartment belonging to pensioner Cornelius Gurlitt in 2012.
2012年，卡尔·斯皮茨韦格(Carl Spitzweg)的画作《弹钢琴》在退休老人科尼利厄斯·古利特(Cornelius Gurlitt)的公寓里被发现。应其合法所有者亨利·辛里森(Henri Hinrichsen)的继承人的要求，卡尔·斯皮茨韦格(Carl Spitzweg)的画作于周二被移交给佳士得拍卖行。
The work had been seized from Jewish music publisher Hinrichsen in 1939, two years before he was killed at Auschwitz, and inherited by Gurlitt from his father.
German authorities have now handed over 14 works from a 1billion collection found at two homes belonging toGurlitt after it was proven they were plundered by Nazis.
It was bought by Gurlitt's father Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer who traded in works confiscated by the Nazis, in 1940.
The reclusive Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014, had squirrelled away more than 1,200 works in his Munich apartment and 250 at a property in Salzburg, Austria.
He inherited much of the collection from his father. Authorities first stumbled on the art while investigating a tax case in February 2012.
Gurlitt's will bequeathed the works to a Swiss museum, the Kunstmuseum Bern.
A German government-backed foundation has been working with it to ensure that any pieces looted from Jewish owners are returned to their heirs.
A trickle of works has been handed back in recent years as the painstaking process of provenance research made gradual progress.
Germany's culture minister, Monika Gruetters, said it was 'an important signal' that all the works so far identified as looted art have been restituted to their owners' heirs.
'Behind every one of these pictures stands a human, tragic fate such as that of Auschwitz victim Dr Henri Hinrichsen,' she said in a statement.
'We cannot make up for this severe suffering, but we are trying with the appraisal of Nazi art looting to make a contribution to historical justice and fulfil our moral responsibility.'
She stressed Germany's 'lasting commitment' to continue with that appraisal and provenance research.
A German government task force identified the drawing as looted in 2015 but legal complications meant its restitution could not be settled until now, Gruetters said.
Pieces by Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne and Matisse were found at the time.
Mr Gurlitt claimed all the paintings were legally acquired by his father, but at least 500 were previously thought to have been either stolen by the Nazis or strong-armed from Jewish collectors at rock-bottom prices.
His father was Nazi Germany’s leading expert on modern art, personally tasked by Hitler to sell paintings he despised abroad to help fund the Third Reich’s war effort.
However, Hildebrand Gurlitt secretly kept many of the pictures for himself.
After the war, he was questioned by the American Army’s ‘Monuments Men’ unit but never charged with any crimes.
He lied that the bulk of his collection had been destroyed in the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945.
In fact, the artworks survived intact and he passed them on to his son, a lifelong bachelor, who said before his death: ‘I never loved anything or anybody in life but my paintings.’
While only 14 of the 1,450 artworks have been proven to have been stolen by Nazis by theGerman Lost Art Foundation, the origin of around 1,000 piecesremain uncertain.
Gilbert Lupfer, director of the German Lost Art Foundation told DW: 'There is a large grey zone.
'Many questions remain unanswered since there are not many sources of information left, nearly a century later.'