German officials agreed yesterday to return six paintings to Jewish heirs, pieces that were part of a $1 billion stash recently uncovered in an art collector’s home.
News of the lucrative trove of art found in a Munich apartment a few years ago first made headlines last month. Munich officials found the collection of art—including works by Matisse and Chagall—hidden in the private residence of Cornelius Gurlitt, upon entering the apartment as part of a tax investigation.
Gurlitt, 80, was the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a now-deceased art collector. Authorities allege Hildebrand was a war profiteer that knowingly accumulated Nazi-looted art, with a majority of the pieces seized from Jewish owners.
Upon discovering the collection, which includes hundreds of works, authorities began the process of seeking out original owners or descendants of owners to return the pieces.
Now, officials at the Ludwig Museum say a portion of the collection will be returned to the heirs of Alfred Flechtheim.
The pieces are by artists Karl Hofer, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Ernst Barlach, Aristide Maillol and Wilhelm Morgner. The heirs have already agreed to allow the Ludwig Museum to place the works on display.
Flechtheim was an art collector in Germany who fled to London after hundreds of his paintings went missing under the Nazi regime. His descendants have worked for years to see the works back in family ownership.
Additionally, the Ludwig Museum announced five drawings by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Georges Kars will be restituted the heirs of Curt Glaser, and also remain on display at the museum.
Glaser was an art collector who served as director of the National Art Library in Berlin until the rise of the Nazis.
News of the restitution plans came the same day Germany’s Finance Ministry said it would not return two 18th-century paintings by Bernardo Bellotto to the heirs of Max Emden.
Returning Nazi-looted art to still-living heirs is a detailed and lengthy process, one that has been taking place across Europe for decades.