“Further surprises” ahead in Nazi-looted art case

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CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

A trove of Nazi-looted art found in Munich raises “fascinating questions”, a leading historian has told historyextra.

Professor Jonathan Osmond, a research professor at Cardiff University who specialises in German art in the 19th and 20th centuries, said the collection of more than 1,400 paintings that the Nazis deemed un-German or degenerate, was “extraordinary”.

It this week emerged that 121 framed and 1,285 unframed pieces, including previously unregistered works by Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Max Liebermann and Henri Matisse, had been seized in the flat of Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich in March last year.

Cornelius Gurlitt is the son Hildebrand Gurlitt, a collector of the modern art of the early 20th century that Nazis removed from show in state museums.

The total value of the trove has been estimated at about 1bn euros (£846m).

Investigators have so far released few details about the works. The issue of ownership is still being clarified.

Prosecutors spoke to the press a day after German weekly Focus reported police had discovered the paintings during a search in an apartment belonging to Cornelius Gurlitt.

Prof Osmond told historyextra: "This is truly an extraordinary find.

“The announcement has been made now, but clearly the pictures were discovered last year and the experts are still working on them and not yet giving out all the information they have.

“Hildebrand Gurlitt, who 'collected' the paintings, was well known as an art dealer.

“He reported – falsely – that the pictures had been destroyed in the bombing of Dresden in 1945, which raises fascinating questions about which well-known works actually survived, from the 20th but also from the 19th century.

“There will no doubt be further exciting surprises. The question of ownership and restitution to heirs will be a long and complicated one.”