Paintings (stock image)
Paintings (stock image) iStock

The French government announced that it will return 15 pieces of art that were looted by the Nazis to descendants of their Jewish owners, ARTnews reported.

France’s National Assembly unanimously adopted the legislation on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to approve the measure on February 15.

The families of the owners of 13 of the 15 works in question have been located by the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation.

“It's the first time since the post-war period that the government is showing a legal commitment towards the restitution of pieces from public collections,” French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said in parliament.

In a statement after the vote, Bachelot described the country’s ownership of the works as “the denial of the humanity [of the Jewish families], their memories,” CNN reported.

The art in the bill includes paintings by Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt and French painter Marc Chagall. The paintings are located in five different museums in France, including the Louvre and the Musée d’Osray.

The legislation was needed because under French law all property of cultural value belonging to the state is considered untouchable without a specialized law that identifies the rightful owners of the property.

“This restitution is historic because it shows the commitments of the French government to render justice to victims of spoliation during the second world war, even if the artworks belong to national collections, “ said art law expert Melina Wolman of Pinsent Masons in Paris, who consulted on the restitution of the works of art. “This is the first law authorizing the declassification of artworks looted during the second world war.”