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14 artworks of the Gurlitt hoard restituted to their rightful owners

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

'Das Klavierspiel' by Carl Spitzweg, one of the Gurlitt collection works. Photo: Carl Spitzweg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Of the 1500 artworks discovered in 2012 in the attic of the son of a Nazi art dealer, 14 have now been returned to their identified original owners’ estates, following an extensive research project into their provenance. The latest to be restituted, 19th century drawing ‘Das Klavierspiel’ (Playing the Piano) by Carl Spitzweg was owned by music publisher Henri Hinrichsen. It will now go up for auction at Christie’s following the request of Hinrichsen’s estate.

Yet hundreds of artworks from Gurlitt’s illicit collection remain unaccounted for; including masterpieces by Monet, Picasso, Beckmann and Matisse. Earlier this year, Deutsche Welle reported on the painstaking process of the provenance research involved. It explains the relatively meagre number of restitutions despite this investigation being one of the largest undertaken in Europe to date. ‘A greater deployment of experts, scientists and funding would hardly be conceivable’, contended the director of the German Lost Art Foundation, Gilbert Lupfer. In the meantime, many of the recovered works will continue to be exhibited intermittently at the Museum of Fine Arts Bern, to which Cornelius Gurlitt had bequeathed the collection upon his death in 2014.

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