Is Goering's Nazi loot in bowels of Ulster Museum?

Belfast Telegraph 3 September 2006
Stephen Breen

The Ulster Museum was last night at the centre of a probe into a famous painting that's suspected of being plundered by Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering.

Leading art detective Clemens 'Fifty Per Cent' Toussaint is set to travel to Belfast in a bid to establish if the museum's most prized Flemish painting - St Christopher Carrying The Christ Child - was stolen by Hitler's right-hand man during the Second World War.

If the millionaire French art sleuth proves Jacob Jordaens' 17th century masterpiece - previously owned by Dutch art collector Jacques Goudstikker - was looted by Goering, the museum could be forced to hand it back to the Goudstikker family.

Said Mr Toussaint: "If it is Nazi loot that has gone to the museum, then the family has a claim.

"It would be fair play that they should either give it back or pay some compensation or find some form of reasonable solution.

"If there is stuff in Northern Ireland, it was traded in post-war times when there was lots of this material available in the international art trade.

"In Ireland or Britain, most of the art was acquired in good faith because there was no stated link to Nazi loot. It all came out after."

Ulster Museum spokeswoman Dr Eileen Black does not believe there are any stolen masterpieces among its collection.

She said: "There are no grounds to suspect any looted art in the museum. Sometimes we know of the provenance of paintings and sometimes not, but they would have been donations from years ago."

The painting was bought by the Ulster Museum in 1966 from a reputable London art gallery for £9,000.

Mr Toussaint, who is trying to establish the location of the painting between 1945 and 1966, believes the museum should have known the painting originated from the Goudstikker collection.

But Toussaint cannot say if the painting was taken by the Nazis or if it was at the centre of a fraud or theft - possibly by a Goudstikker employee.

"If that's the case, it's fraud - but there is no chance to make a case against those responsible," he added.

Mr Toussaint, who has in his possession Jacques Goudstikker's notebook listing catalogue numbers of all his paintings, has tracked down numerous paintings looted by the Nazis.

Goudstikker, who fled Holland shortly after the Wehrmacht invaded in 1940, hanged himself when he was told Goering had plundered his art collection.

Sine 1998 all museums in Britain and Northern Ireland have been obliged to trawl through their artworks to identify whether any could have been plundered by the Nazis.

The Ulster Museum initially identified seven paintings of uncertain provenance between 1933 and 1945, then narrowed it down to four.

But, unlike other museums, the Ulster Museum has yet to complete its research.
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