Nazi-looted art to be returned: Virginia Museum with give 1500s Flemish painting to Poland

The Richmond Times Dispatch 24 September 2005
Clarke Bustard

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will return to Poland a 16th-century Flemish painting looted by the Nazis during World War II.

Jan Mostaert's "Portrait of a Courtier" (also known as "Duc le Burgundy" and "Portrait of Charles VIII") arrived at the museum in 1952. It was a gift from Mrs. A.D. Williams, who had purchased the painting in 1948 from Newhouse Galleries in New York.

The oil portrait was listed in an 1890 inventory of works owned by the Czartoryski family and housed in a castle the family had converted to a museum. Duchess Maria Ludwika Czartoryski had the painting moved to Warsaw in 1939, shortly before the German invasion of Poland.

It was confiscated by the Nazis in 1941 and taken to a castle in Austria. It surfaced in 1948 at Newhouse Galleries, which listed it as being from "an important European collection."

The Virginia Museum began looking through its holdings for works of questionable provenance in the late 1990s, said Karen Daly, the senior assistant registrar who conducts research on art to see whether it could have been looted by the Nazis.

Daly said she is studying about 450 paintings in the Virginia Museum collection that may have been in Europe between 1933 and 1945.

"That doesn't mean all those works are suspect," she said, "just that we want to establish the chain of ownership during those years. That can be very difficult."

Daly has been looking into the Mostaert for about a year. "I found a listing for a work that looked like it on a 'catalog of wartime losses' listed on the Polish embassy's Web site," she said. "We contacted them, and they provided the documentation that showed the painting's provenance."

The Mostaert is the second looted work the Virginia Museum has found in its collection.
Last year it returned "Portrait of Jean d'Albon," attributed to Dutch-born painter Corneille de Lyon, to the executor of the estate of Julius Priester, an Austrian Jewish art collector.
"Portrait of a Courtier" will be handed over to the Polish embassy, which will deliver it to the Princes Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, Poland.

Contact Clarke Bustard at (804) 649-6362 or
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