More possibly Nazi-looted art discovered

Another cache of valuable art possibly looted by the Nazis was discovered at the Austrian home of Cornelius Gurlitt.

A collection of 60 works by such artists as Renoir, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Monet was removed Feb. 10 from the Salzburg home to a secret location, where experts are examining their provenance.

Gurlitt, 81, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily newspaper that the Salzburg collection is worth far more than the 1,400 works confiscated from him nearly two years ago in Munich in the course of an investigation for tax evasion. In Germany, a task force is investigating the Munich collection, and photos of at least one-third of the works have been displayed on the government-sponsored lost-art website.

The Austria collection will remain hidden, according to Gurlitt’s attorney Hannes Hartung, who told Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the works would not be shown to the German task force. “We applaud the Austrian authorities for their respect for private property,” Hartung said.

Gurlitt has decried the German decision to display works from the Munich collection online in an attempt to discover if any were stolen from Jews or from museums during the Nazi period. He claims it is a violation of his privacy. Many of the works may legally belong to Gurlitt.

Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, was a collector whom the Nazi authorities designated to procure works for German museums and for profit. In the immediate postwar years, U.S. military authorities confiscated works in Hildebrand Gurlitt’s possession, but then released them. His son eventually inherited the collection.

Gurlitt has launched a website, and said he would consider claims by possible heirs, but only after the “rightful return of the entire collection by the Augsburg public prosecutors and the customs authorities.” He also said he was willing to consider. — jta