£20m Matisse looted during the war by Herman Goering is returned to the family of its former Jewish owner
Source:The Independent Date: 2014-03-24 Size:
A £20 million Henri Matisse painting that was once part of Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering’s private collection of looted art is being handed back to the family of a renowned Jewish dealer whose vaults were plundered by the Nazis...

Henri Matisse Profil bleu devant la cheminée (Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace), 1937

A £20 million Henri Matisse painting that was once part of Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering’s private collection of looted art is being handed back to the family of a renowned Jewish dealer whose vaults were plundered by the Nazis.

The painting, Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace from 1937, has been owned by a Norwegian gallery for more than 50 years and toured some of the world’s top exhibitions, including the Tate in London and Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery in 1962, before it was identified as stolen Nazi loot.

The painting was one of more than 160 taken from a bank vault at Libourne, near Bordeaux, on September 5, 1941, where Paul Rosenberg, a friend and dealer of Picasso and Matisse, left some of his art for safekeeping before fleeing to the United States the previous year.

The art was discovered by a looting party from a branch of the German foreign office that appropriated “ownerless” property that belonged to the Jews. It transported more than 20,000 items of art from France as part of war plunder from more than 200 collections.

The Matisse was given to Goering – at that time at the height of his powers and heir apparent to Hitler - and a voracious collector of looted art who had some 1,500 pieces in his personal collection that was valued at tens of millions of pounds at the end of the war.

The painting passed through other dealers’ hands until it was bought in the late 1940s from a Parisian gallery by Norwegian shipowner, Niels Onstad, who set up the gallery where it has remained.

After the war Mr Rosenberg travelled Europe to find some of his well documented collection – most he had sent on ahead to London and the United States – and recovered valuable pieces before his death in 1959.

But this painting only came to light when Mr Rosenberg’s daughter-in-law, Elaine, now aged 94, spotted it in a catalogue for a major Matisse exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 2012, setting in train the claim and return of the painting. Gallery officials and representatives of the Rosenberg family announced the handover of the painting today after more than two years of analysis of the claim.

“The value in this painting lies in its symbolism,” said Chris Marinello, of the Art Recovery Group which was involved in negotiations for its return. “It was part of a life that was taken from the Rosenberg family, a way of life that was stolen by Nazi criminals.”

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