Published: Fri, September 14, 2018

Renoir painting looted by Nazis returned to rightful owner's heir

Renoir painting looted by Nazis returned to rightful owner's heir

Choking back tears, she said, "I'm very thankful to be able to show my beloved family, wherever they are, that after all that they've been through, there is a justice".

Before Sulitzer discovered its existence, the painting had traveled out of Nazi hands to private collections in multiple countries, Sweeney said.

One of 13 paintings Jewish art collector and dealer Alfred Weinberger stored in a Paris bank vault before fleeing the city, the Impressionist work was seized in December 1941 before being offered at auctions in London, Johannesburg, Zurich, and New York over the ensuing decades, reports the New York Times.

United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman unveiled the property of Weinberger's only heir with Sulitzer at his side, at a news conference on Wednesday.

Also in attendance was Robert Morgenthau, the former Manhattan district attorney who blocked the return of two Egon Schiele paintings to Austria from the Museum of Modern Art in 1998-an act that led to greater global cooperation in processing claims of art stolen from Jewish families during the Second World War. Then, in 2010, Weinberger's granddaughter, Sylvie Sulitzer, with German attorneys, set out to recover the missing 1919 Renoir. "It was taboo." When Sulitzer's parents divorced, she and her mother moved in with her grandparents, and even though she knew her family had a deep appreciation for art, her grandfather never mentioned any of the missing paintings. She agreed. The firm discovered in 2013 that Two Women in a Garden was listed for sale at Christie's in NY and contacted the auction house, which took it off the block and asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance.

The brief return still stirred strong feelings inside her.

Amusing point: Sulitzer, who has already been paid restitution by the German and French governments for the stolen painting, says she will have to sell "Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin" to pay those two governments back.

Sweeney and Berman said the owner of the painting, who was not disclosed, voluntarily relinquished it. Authorities would not speculate on the current value of the painting.

"The extraordinary journey this small work of art has made around the globe and through time ends today", he said.

The painting is on display at the museum through Sunday and will go back to Sulitzer's possession after that. Having been previously compensated for it by the French government, Sulitzer said she's required to return what is "a huge amount of money for me".

Despite that, she said, she was thrilled to have it back, saying it was important for the memory of her family, and she thought her grandfather would consider it justice.

Park West Gallery has said it refunded the buyer who purchased the painting from their sale in 2009, once learning of its origin.

Scroll through the gallery for other examples of lost and found artworks.

"I hope everybody will, one day or another, have the justice as I had", she said.

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