(JTA) – A painting stolen from its Italian Jewish owner and sold by France’s Vichy government was returned to his heirs.
"Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue," a 16th-century work by Girolamo de’ Romani, is going back to the heirs of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe, who owned the painting until he died in France in 1940.
U.S. authorities in Tallahassee, Fla., signed the paperwork on Wednesday to return the painting to Giuseppe’s grandchildren, as ordered in February by a federal judge. The heirs intend to auction off the painting, which is estimated to be worth $3.5 million.
It was seized Nov. 4, 2011 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee, where it was on display with some 50 other paintings on loan from the Pinacoteca di Brera Museum in Milan, Italy.
Giuseppe, who was living in Paris, died in 1940 shortly before Germany invaded France. Some family members fled France for England, while others were killed in Nazi death camps.The painting and more than 70 other works belonging to Giuseppe were looted and sold by the French Vichy government in 1941. His grandchildren filed a lawsuit in 1997 to have the paintings returned to them.
In 1999, a French court ordered the Louvre to return five paintings to the family.
Lawyers for the family wrote to the Pinacoteca di Brera Museum in 2001 about the painting, three years after it was acquired by the museum, according to The Associated Press. The Italian government also had been contacted about the artwork.