PRAGUE (Dec. 30)
The Czech National Gallery may be holding artworks looted from Jews during World War II, a museum official admitted.
Among the works is a painting attributed to Rembrandt, “Old Man in a Fur Cap,” which may have belonged to French Jewish art collector Adolph Schloss. More than 300 works owned by Schloss were looted by the Nazis in 1943 — and nearly 200 of them have never been recovered.
The Czech National Gallery may have acquired looted artworks during the war, when a Nazi-installed director ran the museum.
The French government has demanded the return of the painting, a Czech Foreign Ministry official said.
But the head of the National Gallery’s archive said the painting may not be from the Schloss collection because its dimensions are not identical to those listed for the Schloss-owned work.
The director of the National Gallery’s Old Masters collection said there are other known variations on the painting, including one currently in Germany.
The National Gallery discovered the work during a search for art that may originally have belonged to Jews. The Czech Ministry of Culture has ordered all Czech museums and galleries that receive government funding to complete such inventories by next July.
It is unclear whether the works found in the course of that search will be returned to their heirs.
A representative of the Czech Jewish community said that if no living claimants could be found, he would be willing to have the works remain in museum collections as long as they were displayed along with a statement that they had belonged to Jews killed in the Holocaust.