Florence’s Uffizi Gallery Says Germany has ‘Moral Duty’ to Return Nazi-Looted Painting

Jan van Huysum’s ‘Vase of Flowers’ was stolen in 1943 by retreating German troops

Uffizi director Eike Schmidt posing with a black-and-white photograph of Jan van Huysum’s Vase of Flowers. Courtesy: Twitter

Uffizi director Eike Schmidt posing with a black-and-white photograph of Jan van Huysum’s Vase of Flowers. Courtesy: Twitter

The head of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, has demanded the return of a painting stolen by Nazi troops in 1943. The still life Vase of Flowers by 18th-century Dutch master Jan van Huysum is currently owned by a German family.

According to Reuters, the German-born museum director Eike Schmidt said: ‘Germany has a moral duty to return this painting to our museum […] This story is preventing the wounds inflicted by World War Two and the horrors of Nazism from healing.’ Schmidt posed with a black-and-white photograph of the work, alongside a label reading ‘Stolen!’.

Schmidt has called out the family for failing to return the work despite multiple requests by the Italian state. He said several ‘intermediaries’ had tried to sell the painting back for an ‘outrageous offer’, prompting prosecutors to open an investigation. ‘The painting is already the inalienable property of the Italian state, and thus cannot be ‘bought’,’ he said.

The painting was originally put on display in Florence in 1824 after Grande Duke Leopoldo II bought the work for his art collection. It was hung in the Pitti Palace until 1940 but was seized by German soldiers three years later as they retreated toward northern Italy. It then disappeared for decades until 1991 when it was rediscovered in a private collection in Germany.

Schmidt called on Germany to observe its ‘moral duty’ to return the painting. ‘I trust that the German government will do so at the earliest opportunity, naturally along with every other work of art stolen by the Nazi Wehrmacht,’ he said.

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