Dutch museums identify looted art

Rijksmuseum The Rijksmuseum was among the hundreds of institutions to take part in the search

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Dutch museums have identified 139 pieces of art amongst their collections which may have been forcibly taken from Jewish owners.

They include a painting by Matisse and many others by Dutch artists, including impressionist Isaac Israels.

The findings are the result of a four-year search, looking at art acquired by more than 400 institutions between 1933 and the present.

A website has been set up to assist rightful heirs in making claims.

The full list of the 139 artworks will be made available on a dedicated website from 16:00 on Tuesday, 29 October.

Prospective owners, or their heirs, can then make a claim for the return of looted art from the Dutch Restitutions Committee.

'Doubtful transactions'

It is the second such review of art owned by Dutch museums and galleries. The first, which took place a decade ago, looked at works acquired between 1940 and 1948.

Announcing the current review in 2009, the director of the Dutch Museum Association said "new information" had prompted them to look further back for paintings of questionable provenance.

"We know that there were doubtful transactions concerning works acquired before 1940, after Kristallnacht," said Siebe Weide.

Kristallnacht - the night of the broken glass - was a co-ordinated attack on Jews in Germany and Austria, on 9-10 November, 1938, which marked the beginning of a systematic campaign of terror that culminated in the Holocaust.

Plundered art

Some 91 Jews died when Nazi stormtroopers ransacked and torched Jewish businesses and synagogues. There was also widespread looting, with countless precious works of art going missing.

The plunder continued throughout World War II, with an estimated 650,000 religious items and works of art stolen from European Jews.

While much of the art has been returned, a great deal remains in museums and private collections.

The 1.3m euro (£1.1m) Dutch review focused explicitly on pieces for which there was any gap in ownership records.

The previous trawl resulted in several paintings being returned. In one case, the Dutch Government returned a total of 202 works to the daughter-in-law of Jacques Goudstikker, a Jewish art dealer whose collection had been plundered during the war.

One of the paintings, Jan Mostaert's Episode From the Conquest of America, was subsequently valued at $14m (£8.7m).

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