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Austrian Painting Looted During WWII Returned to Germany

An 18th-century painting by Austrian artist Johann Lauterer has been returned to Germany after the FBI’s Art Crime Team recovered it from a Chicago resident.

The painting, “Landscape of Italian Character,” is around 300 years old and has been missing since World War II. It will now be returned to the Bavarian State Painting Collections — Alte Pinakothek Museum in Munich, the FBI announced Thursday.

Bavaria is a state in southern Germany.

The painting first resurfaced in 2011 when someone tried to sell it in the Chicago art market. When the museum staked its claim, the painting disappeared again until 2022.

The private firm Art Recovery International had been in contact with the painting’s most recent owner, the aforementioned Chicago resident and nephew of a deceased U.S. veteran who had purportedly looted the artwork and tipped off the FBI.

The unnamed Chicagoan had asked for payment.

“Being on the winning side doesn’t make it right,” Art Recovery International CEO Christopher Marinello said.

He said he explained to the other party “our policy of not paying for stolen artwork and that the request was inappropriate.”

The resident agreed to hand over the painting once the FBI’s Art Crime Team contacted him. It was not clarified whether the previous owner was the same person who tried to sell the painting in 2011.

“I am delighted that an art treasure that was believed to have been lost is coming back to Bavaria: the return of the painting by Johann Franz Nepomuk Lauterer to the [Bavarian State Painting Collections] is not only an act of historical justice but also an expression of the appreciation of our cultural heritage,” Bavarian State Minister for Science and Arts Markus Blume said in a statement.

The painting will now be able to rejoin its counterpart, creating a complete tableau of an 18th-century Italian scene. The other half depicts a band of travelers and shepherds at a ford in a river, according to the Art Newspaper.

“The reuniting of Lauterer’s complementary landscapes is a real stroke of good fortune. A presentation of the restored companion works is planned for the near future,” Bernd Ebert, curator of the Alte Pinakothek’s collection of Dutch and German Baroque paintings, said in a statement.

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