Art Market

Ten Nazi-looted paintings were identified in the Louvre’s collection.

Christy Kuesel
Jan 24, 2020 5:41PM, via Smithsonian Magazine

Visitors at the Louvre museum. Photo by Kimberly Vardeman, via Wikimedia Commons.

After a little less than a month on the job, art historian Emmanuelle Polack has identified 10 pieces of Nazi-looted artworks in the Louvre’s collection. The works come from the collection of French-Jewish lawyer Armand Dorville, who fled Paris under duress, prompting the Nazis to seize his collection and auction it off. The Louvre acquired 12 works at that sale, including works by Henri Monnier, Camille Roqueplan, Constantin Guys, Jean-Louis Forain, and Pierre-Jules Mène. Although the Mène work is still at large and the Forain work is now in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Dorville’s family has filed an official restitution request, according to artnet News.

Smithsonian Magazine reported that Dorville’s great niece said:

This makes it all the more bitter. The fact that during the sale in 1942, the French government of the time participated in the spoliation.

Roughly 100,000 works of art were looted by the Nazis or sold under pressure in France, and many of the country’s national museums acquired works during German occupation. Although a majority of those works were reclaimed by their rightful owners, around 2,000 works of art still remain in French national museums awaiting ownership claims. France has been criticized for only restituting around 100 of these works, prompting the hiring of Polack to identify suspect acquisitions made under France’s Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis.

A member of a task force dedicated to restituting Nazi-looted works said the committee was finishing its investigation into the Dorville collection, and will make an official recommendation on restituting the works to the heirs in the coming weeks. While the Dorvilles wait, they have some good news: On Wednesday Germany returned three artworks to the family that had been found in the notorious Cornelius Gurlitt collection.

Christy Kuesel