MADRID (AP) – A museum in northwest Spain returned two 15th-century paintings to Polish authorities on Wednesday after it was determined they were looted by Nazi German forces during World War II.
The paintings “Mater Dolorosa” (Mother of Sorrows) and “Exe Homo” were handed over to a delegation from the Ministry of Culture of Poland. According to the Museum of Pontevedra, Spain, the work was originally thought to be by Dierk Bouts, a Flemish master born in the Dutch city of Haarlem, but is now attributed to a member of his school or group.
The museum said in 2020 it was made aware by Polish authorities that the works had been looted by Nazi forces. The museum quickly decided to send them back to Poland, but the completion of the official permit for the transfer was delayed until now.
Polish officials said that Nazi forces stole works from the Czartoryski collection in Gołuchów when the town was occupied by German forces in World War II. They appeared in Madrid in 1973 and have been in the Pontevedra Museum since 1994, when they were acquired among more than 300 works purchased from a Spanish private collector.
Poland had most of its cultural heritage destroyed or looted during the wartime occupation of the country by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and approximately 500,000 items are missing.
The country is making efforts to recover as much as possible. The Ministry of Culture has a department for looted art that maintains a database of missing objects and scours foreign collections and auctions. When they discover a stolen Polish painting, book or other item, they notify law enforcement authorities in that country.
AP Writer Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.