Jewish family’s painting looted by Nazis in 1933 is returned

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Acting U.S Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Antoinette T. Bacon, speaks at a repatriation ceremony for the painting "Winter" Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Albany, N.Y. The painting, discovered in an upstate New York museum, was part of a cache of art seized by the Nazis from the Mosse family in Berlin in 1933. (AP Photo/Michael Hill)

(AP) – A painting of two young, 19th-century skaters that was looted by Nazis from a Jewish family in 1933 and recently discovered at a small museum in upstate New York was returned Thursday after 87 years.

The painting “Winter” by American artist Gari Melchers was part of a cache of more than 1,000 pieces of art and artifacts seized from the Mosse family, prominent and well-off Jewish residents of Berlin who became early targets of the Nazi Party. Heirs have been tenaciously seeking to recover the lost pieces for the past decade.

“The Mosse family lost nearly everything because they were Jews. But they did not lose hope,” acting U.S Attorney for the Northern District of New York Antoinette Bacon said at a repatriation ceremony at the Albany FBI office. “While this certainly does not take away the pain the that the Mosses endured, I hope it provides the family with some measure of justice.”

The Mosse Art Restitution Project was started in 2011 to locate and restitute the stolen artworks on behalf of the Mosse heirs. They have completed three dozen restitutions covering more than 50 items from public and private museums as well as private individuals in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Israel and the United States.

The road to this restitution started after the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, New York, noted its seasonal closing in January 2017 with a friendly Facebook post urging readers to “Enjoy Winter!” It was illustrated with a picture of “Winter.”

The post was noticed by a student working with Dr. Meike Hoffmann of the Free University of Berlin. Hoffmann heads the Mosse Art Research Initiative, a university-based collaboration involving Mosse heirs and German public cultural institutions.

Hoffmann said in an email that provenance researchers at MARI were able to link the painting to the Mosse family with the help of Arkell Museum executive director Suzan Friedlander.

“Winter,” sometimes known as “Skaters” or “Snow,” was purchased in 1900 by publishing magnate Rudolf Mosse, who displayed it in a grand Berlin residence loaded with fine art.