Looted art: a French painting stolen by the Nazis found in Italy

Looted art: a French painting stolen by the Nazis found in Italy
Looted art: a French painting stolen by the Nazis found in Italy

A 17th-century painting by Nicolas Poussin, stolen from its owners in France in 1944 by the Nazis, was found in Italy and returned to its owners, Italian gendarmes announced Thursday. The painting by the French painter, entitled “Lot with his two daughters serving him a drink”, an oil painting measuring 120 by 150 cm, had been stolen while German soldiers occupied Poitiers (central-western France) the house of the legitimate owners of the painting, according to the press release issued by the Carabinieri.

The owners had started looking for the painting in 1946 and the work had been listed in 1947 in the “Directory of property looted in France during the 1939-1945 war”, according to the same source. The investigation was relaunched in 2020 when the heirs, a 98-year-old Swiss woman and a 65-year-old American, filed a complaint through their Italian lawyer.

A unit of the riflemen specializing in the protection of cultural heritage then managed to find the painting, whose journey through Europe in the decades following its theft is difficult to follow. In any case, in 2017, the painting was bought in France by an Italian antique dealer, who then sold it to another antique dealer, also Italian. The latter exhibited it in 2019 in the Netherlands and it was during this exhibition that a Dutch art expert living in Italy recognized this painting.

The riflemen then set out on the trail of the painting and finally found it at the home of the antiquarian near Padua, in northeastern Italy. The work was seized and returned to its rightful owners, concludes the press release, which does not give further details on the date and place of this return.

Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), one of the greatest classical masters of French painting, is best known for medium-sized paintings intended for a few Italian or French amateurs to whom he remained faithful throughout his life. Left to live in Rome, his fame allowed him to become the king’s painter and to return to France, but he preferred to return to Rome where he resided until his death.

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