Painting looted by Nazis during WWII returned to Poland
NEW YORK — A painting that Nazi forces looted from a museum in Warsaw was returned Thursday to Poland, after US authorities found the missing artwork at a British gallery.
After its journey around the world, the 1768 painting, Saint Philip Baptizing a Servant of Queen Kandaki, by German artist Johann Conrad Seekatz, is the latest piece to be returned to its rightful owners as stolen art stashes from the Nazi era continue to be recovered.
The painting was looted between 1939-45 from the National Museum of Warsaw. Its whereabouts were unknown until Polish authorities contacted the US in 2008 to raise attention to a number of looted national treasures on sale with US auctioneers.
Authorities identified the Seekatz painting in 2012, after a New York auction house had sold it to a gallery in London.
Bogdan Zdrojewski, Poland's minister of culture and national heritage, praised the United States for its cooperation to retrieve the painting.
"I am very happy that another painting that was registered as a Polish wartime loss comes back to Poland today," Zdrojewski said. "Unfortunately due to our tragic history, the database of Polish wartime losses is still enormous."
Southern New York District Attorney Preet Bharara, who was part of the international operation, said he was glad that the painting finally returned to its home.
"Since (World War II) it has crisscrossed the globe, but today, we are very pleased to finally be able to return this Polish national treasure to the country and its people," Bharara said.
The ceremonial presentation of the painting came one day before the US premier of the film Monuments Men, which tells the story of a military unit saving looted artworks from the Nazis.