France's culture minister returned three paintings seized by the Nazis during World War II to the heirs of their one-time owners at an official ceremony on Tuesday.
Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti returned "Mountain Landscape" by Flemish artist Joos de Momper (1564-1635), a "Portrait of a Woman" oil canvas dating from the 18th century and a "Madonna and Child" painting.
All works of art identified as having been stolen by the Nazis are kept in French museums, which are required to report them and put them on display in the hope that the previous owners, their heirs or their assignees will identify and claim them.
Nearly 2,000 looted art works remain unclaimed.
Filippetti said she was "happy and moved to once again accomplish an act of reparation and justice", which she described as a "moral duty" of her ministry.
"Mountain Landscape" belonged to Baron Cassel van Doorn, a non-Jewish Belgian banker who had homes in France and whose possessions were confiscated by the Nazis in December 1943.
The painting had been housed in a museum in the eastern city of Dijon.
Jacqueline Domeyco, one of van Doorn's granddaughters, said she was "happy to have recovered a memory".
"For a long time in our family nobody spoke of these seizures. It was too tough," said Domeyco, who lives in Chile.
The "Portrait of a Woman" canvas was housed by the famed Louvre museum in Paris, and could be a copy of a portrait of an 18th-century actress by French artist Louis Tocque. The work belonged to art dealers from Berlin, and was auctioned off in January 1935 as part of the public sale of Jewish goods.
The last painting, which the Nazis seized in June 1944 in the southern French city of Cannes and which was also held by the Louvre, was claimed by the great-granddaughter of a banker who once owned the work.
So far, France has managed to return only around 70 of the thousands of pieces of art seized by the Nazis.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-03-12