In recent art world news, three paintings by Flemish master Joachim Patinir were formally handed over to the descendants of Herta and Henry Bromberg at the Louvre Museum by French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen. This is the second time in two years that France has returned looted art to the family. In 2016, France has handed over another 16th-century painting, “Portrait of a Man”, created by one of the followers of Antwerp artist Joos van Cleve.
The Bromberg family was forced to sell the 16th-century “Triptych of the Crucifixion” depicting Christ on the cross, along with several other paintings, the following year after fleeing Germany for France in 1938, so they could come to the United States by way of Switzerland.
The three Patinir paintings had faded away for nearly seven decades as unclaimed in the French state collections after having been recovered in Munich following World War II.
The late Flemish master is considered the father of landscape painting who developed the panoramic style that became the distinctive feature of the northern Renaissance.
In recent years, France has improved its efforts of the restitution of looted art from World War II to its rightful owners through the use of genealogical experts to trace families.
According to former culture minister Audrey Azoulay, who is now Director-General of UNESCO:
It is no longer acceptable to wait for descendants to turn up and ask for the restitution of their family’s art for them to be given their due[.]”
It has been reported that up to 100,000 works of art, and millions of books, were stolen from French Jewish families or Jewish families who had fled to France prior to the German occupation.
After World War II, the Allies had located 60,000 of the missing works of art, and France has been returning works of arts to families since the 1960s though only 30 works were returned up to 1994.
Since 2013 France has made a more concerted effort to resolving the issue of the restitution of looted art with a commission of experts, historians and archivists.