Stolen Art on Display in a Search for Owners

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Jerusalem | In a remarkable feat of cooperation between France and Israel, requiring intensive negotiations and the passage of a law by the Israeli Parliament, the Israel Museum here has opened an exhibition of important art looted by the Nazis from France and then returned after the war. Some of it was never reclaimed, presumably because the owners were killed in the Holocaust.

Running parallel to the show of French-held art is a companion exhibition: looted art, with no known owners, held in custody by the Israel Museum itself.

The two exhibitions are haunting, and they also contain some notable art, including works by Cézanne, Manet, Degas, Chagall, Delacroix, Egon Schiele, Monet, Alfred Sisley, Max Liebermann, Pieter de Hooch and others.

Some of the French-held art was ordered taken by Hitler himself, for the Third Reich. Some pieces were looted; others were forced sales. After the war some works were immediately returned; de Hooch’s 1658 painting “The Drinker,” for example, was returned to the family of Édouard de Rothschild, whose daughter donated it to the Louvre in 1974. Some owners sold their works to museums, but some owners were never found.

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