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Berlin museum returns and buys looted painting from Jewish heirs

A Berlin museum returned a painting looted by the Nazis to the descendants of its former Jewish owner and then bought it back on October 18.

The 1867 Camille Pissarro painting “Une Place à la Roche-Guyon” was owned by Jewish lawyer Armand Dorville, whose family members were forced to auction off his art collection under duress during the Holocaust.

The painting will continue to be on display at Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie, where it has resided since 1961, Artnet News reported.

Dorville family representatives arranged for the museum to restitute the painting and then to buy it back so it could remain in the museum’s permanent collection.

The museum did not reveal how much it paid for the painting.

“I am very grateful to Armand Dorville’s heirs for making it possible for us to purchase the work for the Alte Nationalgalerie and for coming to Berlin especially for this purpose,” said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Foundation that overseas the museum, in a statement.

“We will continue to work with all our might to come to terms with the past, to return works to their rightful owners, and not to let the injustice that happened be forgotten.”

The painting was purchased by the museum in 1961 from a London gallery.

“This painting by Pissarro is of great importance for our collection, as it marks an important step towards impressionist art, which is a core holding of the Alte Nationalgalerie,” said museum director Ralph Gleis in a statement.

Dorville was a Parisian-born lawyer and public figure who fled the Nazi occupation in 1940, managing to smuggle some of his large art collection with him to the south of France. His 450 paintings included works by Delacroix, Manet, Bonnard, Renoir, and Pissarro. He died in 1941, and his three siblings and their children were put in charge of his estate.

They attempted to auction off his art collection in 1942 in Nice but the proceeds from the sale were confiscated by the state. Several family members were murdered at Auschwitz.

Several other Pissarro paintings have been the subject of restitution cases in recent years.

“La Cueillette des Pois” (Picking Peas) from 1887 was seized from its French Jewish owner during World War II. In 2017, it was at the center of a court battle in Paris after surfacing at an exhibition.

An 1897 Pissarro painting that was sold under duress to the Nazis in 1939 by Lilly Cassirer, a Jewish woman who lived in Berlin, was at the center of a US Supreme Court case over jurisdiction. The painting was discovered by the woman’s grandson in a Spanish museum.

A third Pissarro painting looted from a Jewish collector during World War II was restituted by a French court to the man’s heirs in 2020.

Source: Arutz Sheva