£20m Matisse looted during the war by Herman Goering is returned to the family of its former Jewish owner

 

Crime Correspondent

A £20 million Henri Matisse painting that was once part of Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering’s private collection of looted art is being handed back to the family of a renowned Jewish dealer whose vaults were plundered by the Nazis.

The painting, Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace from 1937, has been owned by a Norwegian gallery for more than 50 years and toured some of the world’s top exhibitions, including the Tate in London and Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery in 1962, before it was identified as stolen Nazi loot.

The painting was one of more than 160 taken from a bank vault at Libourne, near Bordeaux, on September 5, 1941, where Paul Rosenberg, a friend and dealer of Picasso and Matisse, left some of his art for safekeeping before fleeing to the United States the previous year.

The art was discovered by a looting party from a branch of the German foreign office that appropriated “ownerless” property that belonged to the Jews. It transported more than 20,000 items of art from France as part of war plunder from more than 200 collections.

The Matisse was given to Goering – at that time at the height of his powers and heir apparent to Hitler - and a voracious collector of looted art who had some 1,500 pieces in his personal collection that was valued at tens of millions of pounds at the end of the war.

The painting passed through other dealers’ hands until it was bought in the late 1940s from a Parisian gallery by Norwegian shipowner, Niels Onstad, who set up the gallery where it has remained.

After the war Mr Rosenberg travelled Europe to find some of his well documented collection – most he had sent on ahead to London and the United States – and recovered valuable pieces before his death in 1959.

But this painting only came to light when Mr Rosenberg’s daughter-in-law, Elaine, now aged 94, spotted it in a catalogue for a major Matisse exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 2012, setting in train the claim and return of the painting. Gallery officials and representatives of the Rosenberg family announced the handover of the painting today after more than two years of analysis of the claim.

“The value in this painting lies in its symbolism,” said Chris Marinello, of the Art Recovery Group which was involved in negotiations for its return. “It was part of a life that was taken from the Rosenberg family, a way of life that was stolen by Nazi criminals.”

 

The issue of the stolen Nazi art exploded to the forefront of public attention last year after it emerged that the authorities in German had seized 1,400 works at a Munich apartment. The paintings had been amassed by Hildebrand Gurlitt, a wheeler-dealing art expert who amassed a fortune in stolen art works while operating as the favoured and trusted agent for the Nazi high command during its campaign of high-art pillage.

His reclusive son had kept them in his safe-keeping. They included another Rosenberg-owned Matisse from the same French vault as from where Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace was taken.

44 countries signed an agreement in 1998 on Nazi-confiscated art at a conference in Washington which promoted the return of work to original honours or their heirs. However, the deal is not binding and galleries cannot be compelled to hand over their works.

“The accident of where the work of art is found still determines whether the claimant gets the work back,” said Anne Webber, founder of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe. “There’s an inconsistency in different countries’ approaches.”

The director of the gallery, Tone Hansen, said that it was looking at 18 other works obtained before 1945 but there was no suggestion that they had been looted. She confirmed that gallery had not been paid for returning the painting. “There’s a moral benefit because we’re doing the right thing,” she said.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable