Looted during World War II, these artworks were returned to their rightful owners—and are now in the Getty Museum’s collection
By now you’ve probably heard about the Monuments Men (and women), thanks to the film and book of that name. It’s an astounding but true story: about 345 men and women from 13 countries united to track down and return a vast number of objects that had been seized by the Nazis. Many of them were art historians, artists, museum directors, curators, architects, and educators—a rather unlikely bunch for a life-and-death adventure. (Meet some of them through photos and documents in the Getty Research Institute’s collection.) The story of the Monuments Men may seem long ago and far away, but it reaches present-day L.A. in the form of several artworks in Los Angeles museums, including the Getty Museum.
Like most museums we keep extensive records on the Nazi-era provenance, or ownership history, of artworks in our collection. The stories of these five artworks have a consistent theme. They include such phrases as: “sold to the Führermuseum,” “looted by the Nazis,” “in the possession of the Vichy Government of France,” “confiscated by the ERR” (the Nazi agency responsible for the thefts), and the compact but dire phrase “August 1941 to [Hermann] Goering.”
After the war ended, the Nazi-looted artworks now in our collection were safely returned to the original owners, or in a few cases safeguarded by other museums; later they were sold to us. The caption information in this post describes their locations during the war, and provides an interesting sampling of the fate of artworks in Europe during World War II.