One of the most important such finds in recent years, 1,500 works by artists including Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann and Marc Chagall long thought lost or destroyed, have been recovered by German police in Munchen. The apartment’s proprietary is the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, the art dealer of the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s, designated to sell the works confiscated especially to Jewish families. Three hundred of the works belonged to the list of “Degenerate Art” compiled by the Nazis. He said that they had all been destroyed in the bombing of his Dresden flat. Meike Hoffmann of the Freie Universität, Berlin, is currently studying the provenance of all 1500 pieces and assessing their value.
The group of works is estimated about 1 billion euros, including a painting entitled “Portrait of a Lady” by Henri Matisse that once belonged to Jewish art collector Paul Rosenberg. In addition, works by Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Liebermann and Albrecht Duerer, discovered two years ago in the first raid.
German authorities kept the discovery secret, who knew that its announcement would provoke a flood of restitution claims. Apparently claims were already on record for 200 of the works by people hopeful that they would one day turn up.
The trail begins in September 2010 with a Customs inspection of a train from Switzerland to German, in which 80 year-old Cornelius Gurlitt was found to be carrying large quantities of cash, and he sold the painting by Max Beckmann, “The Lion Tamer”, through Lempertz auction house for €864,000 months after his flat had been cleared by the authorities.