Uffizi Gallery Asks Germany to Return Dutch Masterpiece Nazis Stole in World War II

January 2, 2019, 1:23 PM UTC

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is trying to retrieve a painting stolen decades ago by Nazis during the Second World War.

Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, said that he’s trying to retrieve Vase of Flowers, a still-life oil on canvas painting by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum. He said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press and sent to Germany that the painting had been in the gallery’s Pitti Palace collection since 1824 and had been stolen by Nazis at a location where it had been moved for safekeeping. It’s remained in Germany and is currently with a family that has so far refused to send it back.

As Germany took over Europe during World War II, its troops, often at the request of Nazi leaders, stole artwork and other valuables and brought them back to Germany. As allied troops marched on Germany, they, too, took precious goods and sent them back home. The practice resulted in widespread loss of valuable property across Europe and an attempt by many European countries to retrieve their lost goods.

According to Schmidt, the German family in possession of Vase of Flowers has offered to return it only if the gallery pays for it at its current value. Schmidt, however, said that he won’t pay and believes “the painting is already the inalienable property of the Italian State, and thus cannot be ‘bought.’”

Germany hasn’t yet responded to Schmidt’s appeal.