Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, Minister of Culture, welcomes the restitution, on October 29, 2020, of 7 works of art to the rights holders of Marguerite Stern, and welcomes the action of the services of the Ministry of Culture, the Louvre Museum, the Musée d'Orsay and the Archives Directorate of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, who worked there.

This set consists of 3 tables and 4 graphic works, of the XVIIIe and XIXe centuries:

  • According to Jean-Antoine Watteau, Concert in a park, oil on canvas, 34x39 cm (MNR 890);
  • Cornelis Beelt (XVIIe), Stable interior, oil on wood, 37x29 cm (MNR 923);
  • Mathys Schoevaerdts (late XVIIe), Square with church, obelisk and passers-by, oil on wood, 35x51 cm (MNR 925);
  • Anonymous XVIIIe century, Scene in a park, gouache, 28x32 cm (REC 146);
  • Style of Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Scène galante, aquarelle, 28x21 cm (REC 147);
  • Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (XIXe), Deux singes au piano, watercolour, 22x28 cm (REC 149);
  • Ernest Meissonier (XIXe), Chess players, drawing, 15.50x18 cm (REC 150).

These works were under the responsibility of the Louvre Museum, with the exception of the drawing REC 150, assigned to the Musée d'Orsay. Two of the paintings had long been deposited in museums in France in the region, one at the Charles de Bruyères Museum in Remiremont from 1997 to 2019 (MNR 923), the other at the Henri-Martin Museum in Cahors from 1955 to 2019 (MNR 925).

Recorded in the inventory of the artistic recovery under numbers MNR and REC, these compositions were part of the property called «Musée nationaux Récupération» (MNR), generically designating the remainder of the works found in Germany at the end of the Second World War, generally resulting from the dispossession of Jewish families, and brought back to France: those of them which had not been returned or sold by the Domains were, at the beginning of the 1950s, entrusted to the custody of the national museums, pending their restitution to their legitimate owners or their rightful holders.

These seven works, along with six others, were found in 1947 in Darmstadt, at the home of a former German soldier who served in Kriegsmarine. It was quickly admitted that these works had been stolen in Paris from Marguerite Stern, widow of Edgard Stern, where Kriegsmarine had settled during the Occupation. Some of the works had been quickly restored, but the provenance could not be clearly established for all the goods, and seven of them had thus been entered in the MNR inventories.

Research on the history of MNR works carried out by the Ministry of Culture, with the help of researchers from museums and archives conservation centres, notably the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, have established with certainty the identity of the owner of these works. The minutes of a sale on 2-4 June 1920 showed that the REC 150, Chess players by Ernest Meissonier, had been bought by Edgard Stern, dispelling any serious doubts about the provenance of this drawing and the six other works.

This restitution was made possible thanks to the voluntarist approach consisting, without waiting for the rights holders to manifest, to identify the owner of the MNR works at the time of their plunder, then their current rights holders. This complementary approach to the treatment of requests addressed to public authorities, launched several years ago, is regularly bearing fruit: 43 works and MNR objects have been restored since 2016, to which must be added 5 MNR works returned at the request of the rights holders, during the same period.