The “Triptych of the Crucifixion” and two other paintings by the Flemish master were returned to the heirs of the Jewish couple, who were forced to sell them as they fled the Nazis. The masterpieces are attributed to Joachim Patinir and they had sat unclaimed in a French museum for seven decades.

French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen presented painting to the grandchildren of Hertha and Henry Bromberg during a ceremony of restitution at Louvre museum.




The Bromberg family fled to Paris from Germany in late 1938, a year later they had to sold painting depicting Christ on the cross, along with two others works by the master, under duress to secure their passage from Nazi Germany to the United States.


Henrietta Schubert and Christopher Bromberg, grandchildren of Henry and Hertha Bromberg, look at the oil work entitled 'Triptych of the Crucifixion" during a ceremony of restitution at Culture ministry in Paris. Photo: AP Photo/Francois Mori


The triptych had been bought at a knock-down price after the German occupation of Paris and was destined for Hitler's Fuhrermuseum in his home town of Linz in Austria, where he wanted to build "the ideal museum".




Joachim Patinir, also called Patenier (c. 1480 – 5 October 1524), was a Flemish Renaissance artist and a pioneer of landscape as an independent genre. He developed the panoramic style that became a hallmark of the Northern Renaissance. There are only five paintings signed by Patinir, but many other works were attributed to him or his workshop with varying degrees of probability. Patinir seems to be closely related to Albrecht Dürer and Quinten Massys with whom he often collaborated. Massys apparently supplied figures for some of Patinir's landscapes.
The Patinir paintings had languished for nearly seven decades unclaimed in the French state collections after they were recovered in Munich after World War II. The works of Patinir are kept in the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum, the Berlin Picture Gallery, the Prado and other leading world institutions.



Joachim Patinir. The Penitence of Saint Jerome, c.1512-15, triptych, oil on wood, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


It is the second time in two years that the French state has returned despoiled art to the family.  In 2016, it handed over another 16th-century painting, "Portrait of a Man", by one of the followers of Antwerp artist Joos van Cleve

Recently France has stepped up efforts to identify the owners of lost or looted World War II treasures. Over 30 looted paintings have been put on display at the Louvre since December to raise public awareness of the issue. It is thought that up to 100,000 works of art, and millions of books, were stolen from French Jews or Jews who had fled to France before the German occupation.

From 1945 to 1949, over 61,000 of those objects were returned to France, and about 45,000 were claimed by their owners. Many of the unclaimed pieces were sold at auction.
French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen at the presentation of 31 paintings of MNR (National Museums Recoveries register), recovered after the Second World War, on February 12, 2018, at the Culture Ministry in Paris. Photo: ALAIN JOCARD / AFP.

Pablo Picasso. Actor
Actor
Pablo Picasso
1904, 196.2×115.3 cm
But not always the piece of art is returned to the rightful owner. Thus, for example, a US judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking the return by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan of a Pablo Picasso masterpiece "Actor" (1904–05). One of the most valuable paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection was the subject of a lawsuit which alleges that the Pablo Picasso’s painting, worth an estimated $100 million, was sold under duress when its owner fled Nazi Germany. But, as a judge said: "The relatives of Paul Leffmann, who once owned The Actor, could not show under New York law that he sold the painting under "duress," justifying its return to her family."

The Met acquired The Actor in a 1952 donation.

Left:  Pablo Picasso’s The Actor (1904–05)

Based on materials ArtDaily, The Telegraph.

Title illustration: AP Photo / Francois Mori