A rare Renoir painting looted by the Nazis after the fall of France has been recovered, and returned to the only surviving descendant of the original owner. The painting, titled “Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin,”, was one of the last painted by the famous French artist, in 1919. The painting is the only one of several belonging to prominent French art dealer Alfred Weinberger that has been recovered. According to Sylvie Sulitzer, Weinberger’s granddaughter and only living heir, Reichsmarshall Herman Goering pressured the Jewish Weinberger to work for him verifying the authenticity of the art treasures he had looted from across Europe. Instead, he fled Paris and joined the French Resistance.
After the war, Weinberger filed claims to recover his lost paintings and rare jewelry that were seized by the Nazis. This particular painting was seen in public for the first time after WWII in 1975, at an art auction in Johannesburg, South Africa. Two years later, it was sold again, this time in London. It appeared for a third time in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was sold in 1999.
It only in 2013, when the painting was consigned to Christie’s in New York, that authorities were able to recover it. Art experts at Christie’s realized that the painting was one that had been looted by the Nazis, and contacted the authorities. The owner of the painting relinquished any claim to it, and it was finally presented to Ms. Sulitzer this week in a special ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.
Representing the U.S Government at the ceremony, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman said “Today, as we celebrate the just return of this painting to its rightful owner, we also remember the uniqueness of the Holocaust and reaffirm our commitment to ensure that the words ‘never forget, never again’ never ring hollow. Hopefully this event brings some measure of justice to Madame Sylvie Sulitzer and her family.”
Four other Renoirs and a painting by Delacroix belonging to Weinberger that were also looted by the Nazis have yet to be seen in public.