France to Return Three Looted Paintings to Rightful Owners
France will return on Tuesday three paintings seized by the Nazis to their rightful owners, AFP reports.
This is just the tip of an iceberg in a country where nearly 2,000 such artworks remain unclaimed, the report noted.
All works of art identified as having been stolen by the Nazis are kept in French museums that are required to report them and put them on display in the hope that the previous owners, their heirs or assignees will spot and claim them.
Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti will return the three paintings - "Mountain Landscape" by Flemish artist Joos de Momper (1564-1635), a "Portrait of a woman" oil canvas dating from the 18th century and a "Madonna and child" painting - in an official ceremony.
"Mountain Landscape" belonged to Baron Cassel van Doorn, a non-Jewish Belgian banker who had homes in France and whose possessions were confiscated by the Nazis in December 1943.
The painting had been housed in a museum in the eastern city of Dijon.
The "Portrait of a woman" canvas was kept in one of the wings of the famed Louvre museum in Paris, and could be the copy of a portrait of an 18th century actress by French artist Louis Tocque.
The artwork belonged to art dealers from Berlin, and was auctioned off in January 1935 as part of the public sale of Jewish goods.
The last painting was seized in June 1944 in the southern French city of Cannes by the Nazis, and is claimed by the great-granddaughter of a banker who owned the artwork, reported AFP.
So far, France has only managed to return 70 pieces of art that were seized by the Nazis to their owners.
Last year, France returned seven paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries to the heirs of two Jewish families whose artworks were stolen during World War II.
In 2012, a 500-year-old painting auctioned by the French government during the Nazi occupation in World War II was returned to a Jewish family who proved it was sold illegally.
The issue of Nazi-looted art has been in the headlines lately, particularly since a trove of over 1,400 looted paintings was found in the Munich apartment of reclusive collector Cornelius Gurlitt.
Germany has been sharply criticized for its "scandalous" handling of the art finds, as news of the discovery was only made public last November through a news report. Following the criticism, Germany created a site to facilitate the return of the art by increasing access to images of the pieces.