Painting looted in World War II returned to German museum

Yahoo News 31 May 2006

A 16th-century Florentine painting that disappeared more than 60 years ago during World War II was returned to a German museum, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation said.

The portrait of Eleonora of Toledo, the daughter of the Neapolitan viceroy and wife of the first duke of Florence, Cosimo de Medici I, is believed to be the work of Florentine Mannerist Alessandro Allori.
It was acquired by the Gemaeldegalerie in 1894 and reported missing in 1944.

The painting has been given back to the museum by the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which said it had for decades been in the possession of veteran BBC correspondent Charles Wheeler.

He was given the portrait as a wedding gift by a farmer near the eastern German town of Frankfurt an der Oder, who claimed that he got it from a Russian soldier in a barter.

Wheeler last year approached the commission and said he would like to give the painting back to its rightful owners, provided it could find them.

It is the first of more than 400 works that disappeared from the Gemaeldegalerie during the war to be found and returned.

The painting is about the size of a man's hand and is painted on poplar wood.

The president of the Prussian foundation, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, said he was "very pleased" that the work was recovered.

"It gives us hope that other lost paintings will be returned."

The Gemaeldegalerie, which holds one of the world's leading collections of European art from the 13th through to the 18th century, was closed in 1939 and its works were put into war-time storage.

It also owns a second portrait of Eleonora of Toledo.
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