1,500 Modernist Paintings Stolen by the Nazis Were Recovered from a Munich Apartment

1,500 Modernist Paintings Stolen by the Nazis Were Recovered from a Munich ApartmentGeneral Dwight D. Eisenhower, General Omar N. Bradley, and Lt. General George S. Patton, Jr inspect stolen art found in a German salt mine. Image via Wikipedia Commons

In 2011, 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt's home was raided during a tax evasion investigation and authorities found much more than they expected. According to the Guardian, around 1,500 modernist paintings valued at around $1.3 billion were discovered tucked away behind juice and decades-old food containers. Inherited from his father, a half-Jewish art collector and dealer for the Germans, Gurlitt's cache includes works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and Marc Chagall, among others, and are believed to be works stolen from Jewish collectors during World War II. Gurlitt had been dipping into the collection when he needed money, but it is unclear how many of the pieces were sold or where they ended up. It is also unclear why the news of the recovery is surfacing after two years, but it may have something to do with the size of the find and the logistics of dealing with international warrants out for around 200 of the pieces.

This was no doubt a major find, but estimates place the total number of pieces stolen by Hitler at around 16,000 so there is no telling how many are yet to be found.

UPDATE NOV. 7 2:53 P.M. ET: According to the LA Times, restoring the stolen paintings to their original owners is bound to pose legal troubles. E. Randol Schoenberg, an attorney and president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust told the LA Times, "Laws in Europe are terrible for the recovery of artwork. If they're in private hands, there's virtually no way of recovering them." Schoenberg asserts that European law favors Cornelius Gurlitt's claim to the paintings even if he stole them.

UPDATE NOV. 11 10:27 A.M. ET: 22 more artworks were found in Gurlitt's home this weekend, reports the Wall Street Journal. The priceless works were wrapped in old newspapers, bubble wrap, and duct tape and were seized by German police this weekend.

UPDATE NOV 15 10:53 A.M. ET: German authorities plan to post 590 of the confiscated artworks on lostart.de, a site for looted art missing since WWII. So far, 25 works have been posted, and more will go online next week according to The New York Times.  

RELATED: George Clooney and Matt Damon Rescue Art from Hitler in "The Monuments Men"
RELATED: Over 1000 Priceless Artifacts Burned or Stolen from the Malawi Museum in Egypt  

[via AtlanticWire

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