Stolen Painting Returned to Germany After 78 Years with Help from FBI
After being missing for over 78 years, a stolen painting titled “Landscape of Italian Character” has finally been returned to Germany with the assistance of the FBI. The artwork was reported stolen from the Bavarian State Paintings Collections in Munich back in 1945 during the chaos of World War II.
The recovery of the painting was made possible through the efforts of Art Recovery International, an organization based in Italy that specializes in locating and retrieving stolen artworks. Their breakthrough came when a Chicago resident reached out to them, revealing that their late uncle had owned the stolen painting.
The resident, who had obtained the artwork after serving in World War II, approached Art Recovery International in December 2022, hoping to receive a finder’s fee in exchange for the painting. However, the organization, committed to the ethical recovery of stolen artworks, declined to pay the fee but instead sought assistance from the FBI’s art-crime team.
Interestingly, it appears that the individual who tipped off Art Recovery International had attempted to sell the painting in the Chicago art market back in 2011. However, they withdrew their offer upon learning that it was stolen property. This information was crucial in establishing the authenticity of the artwork.
The painting was subsequently verified as the original work of Johann Franz Nepomuk Lauterer, an artist from Vienna, by the Alte Pinakothek museum as well as Art Recovery International. The artwork, estimated to be over 300 years old, will now be displayed at the Alte Pinakothek alongside another painting by Lauterer that features similar motifs of the Italian countryside.
This recovery serves as a reminder of the ongoing efforts to repatriate stolen cultural heritage, particularly those taken during World War II. In the past, stolen artworks have been recovered from US soldiers, highlighting the importance of identifying and returning these treasures to their rightful owners.
Despite the successful recovery, the FBI has refrained from providing immediate comments on the case. Nonetheless, this achievement marks a significant step towards preserving and restoring the artistic heritage that was tragically lost during the war.
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