At least 500 works from the collection of the bavarian Cornelius Gurlitt, would have been, according to the experts of the German department of justice, seized to their rightful owners the jews during the Second world War. Monika Grütters, the delegate of the federal government for Culture, returned Tuesday to the heirs of Georges Mandel, the Portrait of a young seated woman , an oil on canvas painting by the French painter of the Nineteenth century Thomas Couture. This is the fifth work made to families excluded from this collection.

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“This case reminds us that we must never stop to identify works of art stolen property, theft of which Germany is responsible”, hammered Monika Grütters.

Georges Mandel, the jewish faith, has been murdered of sixteen bullets in the back in 1944, by a militiaman collaborationniste. Chief of staff and close to George Clémenaceau in the 1920s, between the first hour of the rise of Germany before the war, he was minister of Colonies from 1938 to 1940 and minister of the Interior a short time. He is sentenced to life in prison on the orders of marshal Philippe Pétain in 1941 with Paul Reynaud and Édouard Daladier, before being killed.

The collection Gurlitt

The record of the succession of Georges Mandel mentioned the presence of a small hole on the canvas, thanks to which it could be proven that the painting belonged to the minister. The experts believe that it has been confiscated in 1940 during a search of the group Künsberg, a nazi organization that looted the cultural treasures of occupied countries. The French Commission for the compensation of victims of spoliation was then allowed to contact the heirs of Georges Mandel, who were present at the restitution.

The museum of Fine Arts Berne, sole legatee of the dealer Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014, and the German government agreed in 2014 to examine the provenance of more than 1500 works in order to make it to the descendants of victims of nazism. The collection, consisting of Rubens, Durer, Cranach, Cézanne or Matisse, were formed by Hildebrand Gurlitt. Former museum director, he had been commissioned by the nazis to sell the works deemed “degenerate” present in the German settlements. He is suspected of having formed his collection by taking advantage of the confiscations or forced sales imposed on jews collectors.

Thomas Couture, the author of the Portrait of a young seated woman , was a painter of history and portrait painter, famous in the Nineteenth century. One also remembers him for having been the teacher of Édouard Manet. The work 73.5 cm high by 60 cm wide, could be worth several tens of thousands of euros.

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The oil on canvas was exhibited until 7 January in Berlin within the framework of a large exhibition entitled Collection Gurlitt, state of play . The opportunity to make visible the works and facilitate research work of their owners robbed.

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