17th century painting returned to France

17th century painting called Man in a Fur Cap, photo: CTK

On Tuesday, the Czech Minister of Culture, Pavel Dostal, returned a 17th century painting called Man in a Fur Cap to the French authorities. The picture had belonged to Prague's National Gallery since 1945. It was looted by the Nazis in France during WW II. Mr. Dostal handed over the picture to his French counterpart, Jean Jacques Aillagon. Alena Skodova has more:

17th century painting called Man in a Fur Cap, photo: CTK
The picture, originally called Jew in a Fur Cap, had been ascribed to Rembrandt and had been for more than three years the subject of diplomatic negotiations between Prague and Paris. The National Gallery in Prague kept claiming that the picture was not part of the looted collection of a French trader of Jewish origin, Alfred Schloss. A joint Czech-French commission made up of experts on painting was set up, and came to the conclusion that the picture did belong to Mr. Schloss.

Mr. Dostal described the handing over of the picture as a positive deed, adding that the Czech Republic was trying to repair the damage that had been done many years ago, while his French counterpart said he was glad that the Czech Cultural Season in France had started with such a symbolic event.

The commission of experts rejected the hypothesis that Rembrandt himself painted the picture. The work, which is insured for 1.5 million Czech crowns, is only one of another 15 variations on the same theme that came into being within Rembrandt's artistic circle. The experts were not able to distinguish, though, who the man depicted on the picture was and found no evidence that the portrayed man was a Jew, either. The relatively small picture will be handed over to Mr. Schloss's heirs soon.

Schloss had a rich collection of more than 300 pictures by European masters, but during the occupation of France in the 1940s it was confiscated by the Nazis. Some 50 works remained in the Louvre, from where they were given back to Schloss's heirs shortly after the war. But the Man in Cap painting disappeared without trace, and the National Gallery in Prague acquired it in October 1945 as a confiscated item from German property.

France has been hunting down its citizens' lost property which is now in museums and galleries abroad, and the French government tries to get them back via diplomatic channels.