The FBI has returned on Tuesday a picture of the Dutch painter Salomon Koninck 380 years old to its rightful owners, a fJewish French amilia, 75 years after it was stolen by the Nazis during the invasion of France in the WWII.
The play, A Scholar Sharpening His Quill, painted by Koninck in 1639, was delivered to the Schlosss in a ceremony held at the French Consulate in New York, attended by the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The work, 'A Scholar Sharpening His Quill', painted by Koninck in 1639, was delivered to the Schlosss in a ceremony that took place at the French Consulate in New York
"Stolen in our territory by the Gestapo and transferred to Munich with the complicity of French collaborators in 1943, we had lost their trail," explained Le Drian, who was accompanied by the District Attorney of the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, and a representative of the FBI criminal investigation office in Washington, Michael Driscoll. "He is finally meeting his new owners again, the heirs of Adolphe Schloss (a collector of French art) and his five children," the minister added.
Present at the ceremony were the great-grandchildren of Schloss, Laurent and Michel Vernay, as well as their daughter-in-law, Eliane Demartini, who described the return of the work as a "small victory" and recalled that there are still many pieces of art that were stolen and not have been found
Stolen in our territory by the Gestapo and transferred to Munich with the complicity of French collaborators in 1943, we had lost their trace "
The representative of the French administration stressed that his country continues with its efforts to accelerate the identification and restitution of works stolen during the Hitler regime, and noted that more than two thirds of the 100,000 pieces usurped by the Nazis were found shortly after the end of the conflict.
The rest, he said, have not been found, but France "has never surrendered in its search." "Some will have been destroyed, but it happens, over time, that the works that were hidden by the thieves reappear in the market, as happened with the work of Koninck," said the French minister.
A Scholar Sharpening His Quill It was found in 2017, when its then owner, the Chilean Renate Stein, contacted the Christie's auction house with the intention of selling it in New York after his family acquired it in Germany in the 50s.
The rest, he said, have not been found, but France "has never surrendered in its search"
Drian also wanted to emphasize in his speech the increase in anti-Semitism today and listed the efforts of his government to end it, while denouncing the lack of action by the United States. "Something similar (to France) must be done in US territory, where too much nostalgia for Nazism hides behind the First Amendment (freedom of expression) to unleash the propaganda of hatred," he said.
For his part, the prosecutor of the Southern District of New York said that what happened with the plundering of works of art in the hands of Jews during World War II "was not only unfair, but inhuman". "We have a moral imperative to act, which is what we are doing now and we will continue to do," he added.
For his part, the representative of the FBI explained the arduous investigations that have to be carried out in this type of cases to demonstrate the origin of the work, and stressed the vital importance of the collaboration of auction houses when identifying and report stolen pieces.