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Fine Arts Museum returns Nazi-plundered painting to Jewish family

14:16 02/06/2021

The Fine Arts Museum of Belgium has returned a painting stolen by the Nazis to a Jewish family in Germany. The expressionist painting ‘Blumenstilleben’ (Still Life with Flowers) was painted by Lovis Corinth in 1913.

The museum always knew that the painting was stolen. Like most privately owned artworks confiscated by the Third Reich across Europe during the Second World War, it wasn’t known to whom it originally belonged. A three-year investigation into Nazi-stolen art in Belgium that ended in 2011 could not determine the rightful owners of ‘Blumenstilleben’.

In 2016, the Berlin-based legal firm Von Trott zu Solz Lammek – specialised in the recovery of art stolen by the Nazis – filed a claim on behalf of a family that believe the painting is one of many stolen from their ancestors.

‘A simple gesture’

The Jewish family that had originally owned the work took it with them when they fled to Belgium. The work was then confiscated during the Nazi plunder and entered one of their famous storehouses of artworks.

Following a five-year process to determine if the painting actually belongs to the family, federal secretary Thomas Dermine concluded that it “most likely” is the case. The painting is now back with its heirs in Germany.

“It is a simple gesture,” said Thomas Dermine, the federal state secretary charged with the management of federally owned cultural institutions, “but a restoration of a cowardly theft, and it shows that we must never lose faith in justice.”

The Nazis were fans of Corinth, a printer and painter, confiscating nearly 300 of his works, mostly from German museums. ‘Blumenstilleben’ was placed in the ownership of the Fine Arts Museum in Brussels in 1951. It was on show until 2010, when the modern art collection was all moved into storage.

 ‘Blumenstilleben’ by Lovis Corinth‘Blumenstilleben’ in its entirety
©Photo d’art Speltdoorn & Fils

Written by Lisa Bradshaw