Boston museum settles with heirs of painting’s rightful owner

(JTA) — A Boston museum will pay restitution for a painting in its collection that was taken from its rightful owner by the Nazis.

The Museum of Fine Arts has been investigating the provenance of a 17th-century Dutch painting by Eglon van der Neer for more than a decade, according to the Boston Globe. It will pay the heirs of Holocaust victim Walter Westfield an undisclosed sum, and in return will be permitted to keep the painting.

Westfield, the owner of an art gallery in Germany until 1936, was killed at Auschwitz. The museum bought the painting in 1941 from a dealer who said it had been brought to the United States by refugees, but two years later a French art dealer told the museum that he had sold the painting to Westfield before the Nazis arrested the Jewish dealer and plundered his artwork.

In 2000, the museum took  the unusual step of posting an image of the painting online in efforts to discover its history. Fred Westfield, a nephew of Westfeld living in Tennessee, saw the image and began discussions with museum officials.

The Museum of Fine Arts has returned three other works that were seized during World War II. In this case, the Globe reports, both the museum and the claimant wanted the painting to remain on public display.

 

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