PARIS: The French government agreed to return three looted paintings to the heirs of a Jewish collector who died in a German concentration camp on Thursday.
The paintings of the fauvist André Derain once belonged to the famous Parisian gallery owner René Gimpel, denounced by a rival merchant after joining the Resistance to fight against the Nazi occupation and the collaborationist government of Vichy.
The decision comes after a Paris appeals court on Wednesday overturned a lower court’s decision not to return the work.
They are housed at the Museum of Modern Art in Troyes and at the Cantini Museum in Marseille.
The works, painted between 1907 and 1910, were taken as booty during Gimpel’s arrest.
The lower court had ruled that there were doubts about the authenticity of the paintings, but the appeal judges said there were “accurate, serious and consistent indications” that the works were the same as those taken. in Gimpel.
“It’s great,” said Corinne Hershkovitch, lawyer for the heirs of Gimpel, who are still trying to recover other works from her collection.
“The court has agreed on the points we have made and we are very happy to be recognized,” she said.
Gimpel, of Jewish origin, was a great art collector at the beginning of the 20th century. Active in the Resistance, he fled Paris at the start of World War II and headed for the Côte d’Azur.
He was arrested in 1944 and deported to Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, Germany, where he died the following year.
France has stepped up efforts to return Nazi-looted art after an internal government report in 2018 criticized the “ineffectiveness and lack of ambition” of official efforts to return art taken from Jews.
Authorities are now using genealogy experts and specialist researchers to trace families so that the treasure can be returned to their rightful owners.