Renoir work stolen by Nazis returned to French owner

The French grandchild of a Jewish art collector has had a Renoir painting returned to her family by an American museum, after the piece was stolen by the Nazis in 1941.

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Sylvie Sulitzer, the grandchild of collector Alfred Weinberger, was invited to an official returning ceremony organised by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

She was presented with a 1919 painting by the artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, named Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin (Two Women In A Garden), which had been part of her grandfather’s collection at the time of the Nazi invasion of France during the Second World War.

The artwork was given to prestigious auction house Christie’s in 2013, at which point its authenticity and origins were called into question.

Federal authorities in Manhattan and the FBI investigated the painting and its history. It was then that they contacted Ms Sulitzer.

Her grandfather had fled his home in Paris after the Nazi invasion of 1940, and left his art collection in a safe at the Morgan bank. The works were all seized by the Nazis in 1941.

At the end of the war, the collection was released - largely in the United States - but Mr Weinberger was only able to recover a part of it.

Ms Sulitzer was unaware of the extent of her grandfather’s art collection before a German lawyers’ office - von Trott zu Solz Lammek - contacted her in the early 2010s.

The office had been researching artwork that had been stolen by the Nazis, and had discovered a list of works that Mr Weinberger had not been able to recover. The office would later help connect the American authorities with Ms Sulitzer.

She said: “I am so grateful to be able to show my much-loved family, wherever they may be, that after everything they went through, there has been justice.”

Ms Sulitzer will now likely sell the painting, as she has fees to pay to the French state, who had previously compensated her as part of the victims’ group la Commission d'Indemnisation des Victimes de Spoliation (CIVS).

She will also need to pay back financial compensation given by the German state.

She said: “I would have loved to have kept it [the painting].”

According to Ms Sulitzer, four other Renoir paintings and one by Delcroix from the original collection are still missing without trace.

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