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Nazi Art Trove Includes Unknown Chagall Treasure


Augsburg — Previously unknown masterpieces by modernist painters Marc Chagall and Otto Dix are among a vast trove of works believed stolen by the Nazis and uncovered in a Munich flat, an art historian said Tuesday.

Breaking two days of silence following the revelation of the spectacular discovery, Meike Hoffmann, the chief expert aiding the investigation, said the Chagall painting, an allegorical scene dating from the mid-1920s, had a "particularly high art-historical value".

The Dix work is a rare self-portrait probably painted in 1919, she added.

Hoffmann showed slides of the paintings, which also include works by Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri Matisse, at a news conference in the southern city of Augsburg where the German authorities shed light on the extraordinary find in the apartment of an eccentric elderly loner.

The man, identified as Cornelius Gurlitt, is the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a prominent Nazi-era art dealer who acquired the paintings in the 1930s and 1940s.

Hildebrand Gurlitt had been one of a handful of art experts tasked by the Nazis with selling valuable artworks stolen from Jewish collectors or seized among avant-garde works deemed to be "degenerate".

Augsburg chief prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz said 1,285 unframed and 121 framed paintings, sketches and prints, some dating back to the 16th century, were found in the rubbish-strewn flat.

Focus magazine, which broke the story this week, had reported that the collection comprised 1,500 works worth an estimated one billion dollars ($1.3 billion).

Nemetz declined to comment on the possible market value of the stash.

Determining which works were looted from Jewish collectors by the Nazis or taken from them under duress for a pittance would be a lengthy process, Hoffmann noted.

An 'extraordinarily happy feeling'

An 'extraordinarily happy feeling'

In a moment of high drama at the news conference, Hoffmann flicked through slides in the darkened room showing works that had not been seen in public in seven decades.

They included a groundbreaking Expressionist horse painting by Franz Marc, a vivid portrait of a seated woman by Matisse and a touching image of a girl holding a goat by 19th century French master Gustave Courbet.

The Dix painting is a haunting portrayal of the German artist's gaunt face just one year after World War I, a conflict in which he fought and whose horrors left him traumatised, shaping his work until his death in 1969.



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One of my father's friends had been a protoge of Monet, and had collected all kinds of artwork by Monet, Renoir, and others back in the 20s and 30s. He had participated in an anti-Nazi rally (he was from an affluent Jewish family), and was warned the SS was waiting for him at his apartment and he had to flee Germany.

One time when he and my father were watching a program back in the 80s on the Japanese spending megabucks on Impressionist works, he turned to my father and said something along the lines of he must've lost $100 million worth of art when he fled. Ironically, it was the French SS that later gave him his worst beating, leaving him with a permanent limp.

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