The Bavarian State Painting Collections recently recovered a landscape painting that had been missing since 1945 through the assistance of the FBI.
Originally part of the collection of the New Bayreuth Palace, Landscape of Italian Character by Viennese artist Johann Franz Nepomuk Lauterer was reported as a war loss after the Second World War. The artwork had been in the publicly-accessible Lost Art database of the German Lost Art Foundation since 2012.
Research and recovery work by the specialist firm Art Recovery International (ARI) would unearth the provenance information about the painting, showing it had been looted from Germany by an American soldier.
Last December, lawyer and ARI founder Christopher A. Marinello was first contacted by a person in Chicago who claimed to possess a “stolen or looted painting” and was inquiring about how to return it. According to a press release from ARI, it was alleged that the possessor’s uncle had brought the painting home from Germany after serving in the US Army during the war.
ARI was sent a few images of the painting, but no information about the artist or title.
Marinello and his team worked with attorneys from the German firm Wantuch Thole Volhard to identify the artwork as a long-lost landscape by Lauterer landscape once part of the collection of the New Bayreuth Palace, a branch gallery of the Bavarian State Painting Collections (BSPC). It appeared on the American art market for the first time in 2011, but negotiations to return it to the BSPC failed.
“I shared all the evidentiary documentation of the loss with the possessor who initially wanted to be paid to release the artwork,” Marinello wrote in his press statement. “I explained our policy of not paying for stolen artwork and that the request was inappropriate given the familial connection. We also know that someone tried to sell the painting in the Chicago art market in 2011 and disappeared when the Museum put forth its claim. Eventually, I negotiated an unconditional release of the painting and asked the FBI Art Crime Team to bring the case over the finish line. The FBI in Chicago confirmed the looting and provided the extra confidence to the possessor to surrender the painting unconditionally”.
ARI frequently does research and restitution work on artworks looted by the Nazis that are later discovered in public or private collections.
“On occasion, we come across cases, such as this, where allied soldiers may have taken objects home as souvenirs or as trophies of war,” Marinello wrote. “Being on the winning side doesn’t make it right. We expect everyone to do the right thing and return stolen artwork wherever it may be located. The problem of looted art will not go away but is often passed onto future generations to deal with”.
On October 19, the painting was formally returned to the museum at the German consulate in Chicago. A press release from the Alte Pinakothek art museum in Munich, Germany said Landscape of Italian Character would be reunited with its counterpart, Italian Landscape.