Spanish museum returns two paintings looted by Nazis to Poland

The paintings, Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) and Ecce Homo, were handed over to a delegation from Poland’s culture ministry on Wednesday.

Two people take down the diptych of Ecce Homo
Two people take down the diptych of Ecce Homo

A museum in north-west Spain has returned two 15th-century paintings to Polish officials after it was determined they were looted by Nazi German forces during the Second World War.

The paintings, Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) and Ecce Homo, were handed over to a delegation from Poland’s culture ministry on Wednesday.

According to Spain’s Museum of Pontevedra, the works were originally believed to be by Dieric Bouts, a Flemish master born in the Dutch town of Haarlem, but now they are attributed to a member of his school or group.

In 2020, Polish officials made it aware the works had been looted by the Nazis, the museum said.

The museum quickly decided to send them back to Poland, but the completion of official permits for the transfer delayed it until now.

Nazi forces stole the works from the Czartoryski collection in Goluchow when the city was occupied by the German military in the Second World War, Polish officials said.

They appeared in Madrid in 1973 and had been in the Pontevedra museum since 1994, when they were acquired among more than 300 works bought from a Spanish private collector.

Poland saw much of its cultural patrimony destroyed or looted during the country’s wartime occupation by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and about 500,000 items remain missing.

The country has been making efforts to recover as much as possible.

The Culture Ministry has a division for looted art which keeps a database of missing objects and scours foreign collections and auctions.

When they find a looted Polish painting, book or other object, they inform police in the country.

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