Remembering the Holocaust
Remembering the HolocaustIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A 500-year-old painting auctioned by the French government during the Nazi occupation in World War II was returned on Wednesday to a Jewish family who proved it was sold illegally.

According to a report in The Associated Press, U.S. authorities in Tallahassee signed paperwork to return the 16th century Baroque painting to representatives of the family of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe.

Gentilli died in 1940 shortly before the Nazis occupied France. The Vichy government sold the painting, but the sale has been deemed illegal.

The painting has been displayed since March 18, 2011 at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee.

AFP reported that before the exhibition ended on September 4, U.S. Attorney Pamela Marsh became suspicious about the origins of the painting. A subsequent investigation traced it to the Gentili family, who were Italian refugees living in France during the Vichy regime that collaborated with the Axis powers during World War II.

The family's art collection was sold in 1941 during a forced sale, and U.S. authorities seized the painting last year for their investigation.

The Gentilis' grandchildren have sought for years through courts to recover their family's stolen artwork. They succeeded in 1999 in having five paintings displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris returned to them, AFP reported.