German collector of art stash says he’ll return some works


(JTA) — A Nazi-looted Matisse painting reportedly will be returned to the heirs of a Paris art dealer by the German man who stashed it in his apartment for decades.

Through his attorneys, Cornelius Gurlitt said this week that he would be returning to heirs all works identified as having been “stolen or robbed” by the Nazis, according to the German magazine Focus. They apparently include “Sitting Woman,” which belonged to the Paris dealer Paul Rosenberg and for a time was in the possession of Hitler’s chief deputy, Hermann Goering.

Other restitutions from the more than 1,600 artworks found recently in the Munich and Salzburg homes of Gurlitt, 81, are expected to be announced in the coming weeks, but Gurlitt’s court-appointed attorney Christoph Edel said relatively few works would fall into that category.

Gurlitt inherited the collection from his father, Hildebrand, who was hired by the Nazis to buy art for its museums, as well as works that were considered “degenerate” that could be sold for profit. Hildebrand Gurlitt made several trips to Paris in the course of his work.

In 2012, customs agents investigating Cornelius Gurlitt for tax evasion confiscated the Munich stash of some 1,400 works in a story broken last fall by Focus. The Salzburg collection was revealed several months later.

The German government has formed a task force specifically to examine the provenance of works in the Munich collection; the Salzburg collection is being investigated in Austria.

Meanwhile, Gurlitt launched a website where updates are posted and queries from potential heirs are accepted.

Several years ago, Gurlitt sold a painting by Max Beckmann at auction, sharing the proceeds with a Jewish family who established it was part of their lost inheritance. The fact that Gurlitt had a trove of valuable works of unclear provenance was not revealed at the time.

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