Looting

Italy retrieves three works looted from Tuscan villa by the Nazis

Italian authorities have recovered three 15th-century paintings looted by Nazi troops from a Tuscan villa during the Second World War. The works—a Madonna with Child attributed to Cima da Conegliano, the Trinity by Alessio Baldovinetti and the Presentation of Jesus to the Temple by Girolamo dai Libri—were unveiled on 18 April at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, where they have been temporarily assigned for safekeeping.

In 1939, a year after Italy introduced its anti-Jewish racial laws, the Fascist government under Benito Mussolini created an agency to acquire, manage and resell property confiscated from the Jews. Its remit was extended to enemy citizens after Italy entered the Second World War in alliance with Nazi Germany in 1940. Known as EGELI, the organisation took possession of the assets of prince Félix of Bourbon-Parma, the grand duke of Luxembourg, in August that year. Among them were the paintings from the prince’s art collection at Villa delle Pianore in Camaiore, Tuscany.

The rise of fakes and false attributions in the art world

Pablo Picasso famously once said, “We all know that art is not the truth.”

With the recent conclusion of the first lawsuit filed against the now defunct, Knoedler Gallery of New York, for selling forgeries, the art world has been abuzz with stories of high-end fakes and the grave issue of false attributions. However, it is a universally established fact that forgeries are not a recent phenomenon but in fact have only grown in prevelance over the last four centuries.

Currently, the FBI estimates that art theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines are a “looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually.”

Nazi-looted Dutch Old Master pulled from auction

Vienna’s im Kinsky auction house has removed Portrait of a Man, a painting by Dutch Old Master Bartholomeus van der Helst, from its April 12 and 13 sales. The lot was pulled at the request of the French government, which believes the painting was looted by Nazis, according to Agence France-Presse.

The painting was once part of the collection of Adolphe Schloss, a Jewish art collector who lived in Paris. The Nazis seized the collection in April 1943 after invading France, and earmarked Portrait of a Man for the planned the Führermuseum in Linz. The canvas was recovered by Allied forces following the war, but was reportedly “stolen from an Allied art collecting point” afterward, the Art Newspaper notes.

Swiss prosecutors raid freeport looking for Modigliani

The Geneva papers say local prosecutors entered the storage facility to determine the location of the disputed Modigliani. At present, no one is saying whether the authorities seized the work or even located it:

The Geneva public prosecutor wasted no time. Two days after opening unsolicited inquiries for “to audit” in relation to the revelations of Panama papers, prosecutors went to action. The prosecutor Claudio Mascotto conducted Friday morning a search on the site francs Ports Geneva, in the premises of the works of art storage company Rodolphe Haller.

According to our information, the prosecution is interested in a painting by Modigliani, The man sitting leaning on a cane. A painting valued at $ 25 million, including Panama papers have revealed the true owner, art collector David Nahmad. When contacted, the Public Ministry has not wished to make any comment.

This morning Bloomberg confirmed with the prosecutors that the painting had been confiscated:

As part of the case, investigators on Friday searched facilities at the Geneva Free Ports, and confiscated the painting, “Seated Man with a Cane,” the Geneva Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement Monday.

Mossack Fonseca's role in fight over painting stolen by Nazis

Mossack Fonseca helped a New York art gallery defend itself over a claim about a Nazi-looted artwork after the apparent original owner’s descendant launched a legal battle for its return, the Panama Papers reveal.

The case involves a £18m Modigliani painting taken from Paris when the Germans marched into the city in 1940 and the role played by Mossack Fonseca, as the family who say it is theirs fought for its return.

The artwork in question is the 1918 Seated Man With a Cane, and the story of its theft and reemergence blends the injustice of treasures taken during the second world war with the smoke and mirrors of 21st-century offshore tax havens.

The descendant claims the painting was owned by Oscar Stettiner, a Jewish gallery owner in Paris who fled weeks before the Nazis entered the city. He managed to get his wife and children to the Dordogne but had to leave his collection behind.