Hungry and Nazi Looted Art

Carol Vogel has a good piece in the NY Times about the family of World War II  era Hungarian art collector Baron Herzog.  Herzog's collection was looted by the Germans during World War II and now many of the paintings from the collection hang in Hungarian museums.  Vogel reports that after years of attempts to regain the art the family has sued the Hungarian government for return of art, including works by El Greco, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Zurbarán, van Dyck, Velázquez and Monet. Germany recently returned 3 paintings to the family, and they sold the art recently at Chritie's in London for $8.5 million. The family members are using the sale proceeds to fund the current litigation against Hungry. The article states Hungry is one of only a few countries which has been uncooperative despite the requests and actions from familiy members and many US government officials.

Vogel reports

Part of the family’s frustration, Mr. Shuster said — and one reason the lawsuit requests a Hungarian inventory — is that it appears impossible to know just how much art is actually missing. Russia, for example, where some family members filed a lawsuit in 1999 that is still pending, is believed to have a number of works by artists including El Greco, Goya and Renoir that were stolen by the Nazis and then seized by the Soviets in Germany. Those works may be just a small segment of what was lost.

And in Hungary, the Herzogs believe, there may be many more than the works named in the suit, which are valued at a total of about $100 million. (That figure was arrived at after asking dealers and auction-house experts to value the property from photographs and visits to some of the museums.)

“About 12 years ago I was put in touch with one of the Herzog heirs through friends,” said George Wachter, who runs Sotheby’s old master paintings department worldwide. “And I was asked to go to Budapest to meet with their lawyer and look at” several paintings. Mr. Wachter took the trip and described the art he saw as “good, solid, quality pictures,” adding, “I can understand why Hungary wouldn’t let them go.”

Before this latest lawsuit, the heirs tried to compromise with the Hungarian museums. “Fifteen years ago the family offered to split the paintings with the government, and they turned them down,” Mr. Goldstein said. “Germany and Austria have come to terms with this issue, but Hungary has not. They have refused to take responsibility.”
To read the full article, click HERE.

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