RESTITUTION OF 4 WORKS OF ART LOOTED DURING WORLD WAR II TO THE RIGHTS HOLDERS OF MOSES LEVI DE BENZION
Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, Minister of Culture, welcomes the restitution, on December 22, 2021, of 4 works of art belonging to the so-called «National Museums Recuperation» (MNR) to the rights holders of Moïse Levi de Benzion, and welcomes the joint action of the departments of the Ministry of Culture, the Louvre Museum, the Musée d'Orsay, the Archives Directorate of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, as well as the Commission pour l'indemnisation des victimes de spoliations (CIVS).
This set consists of 4 graphic works of the XIXe century:
- Georges MICHEL, Landscape, watercolour, 10.5 x 17.3 cm, inventoried REC 95;
- Paul DELAROCHE, Womanwear, drawing, 18.3 x 15.5 cm, inventoried REC 99;
- Auguste HESSE, Female portrait, drawing, 18.7 x 15 cm, inventoried REC 115;
- Jules-Jacques VEYRASSAT, Low tide in Grandcamp, watercolour, 16.3 x 34 cm, inventoried REC 117.
These works were placed, for the first three, under the responsibility of the Louvre Museum and, for the fourth, under that of the Musée d'Orsay.
Recorded in the inventory of «artistic recovery», these works were part of the property called «National Museums Recovery» (MNR), generically designating the remainder of the works found in Germany at the end of the Second World War and brought back to France: those of them that had not been returned or sold by the Domains have, in the early 1950s, They have been entrusted to the custody of the national museums, pending their restitution to their rightful owners or assigns in the event of proven spoliation. Many of these MNR works have been plundered from Jews.
Recent research has shown that these four works were purchased in 1920 by the great Egyptian Jewish collector Moïse Levi de Benzion, born in Alexandria in 1873 and died in La Roche-Canillac (Corrèze) during the war in 1943. Like hundreds of other works, they were stolen from him in November 1940 in his Château de la Folie in Draveil (Seine-et-Oise, now Essonne) by the Nazi organization of looting works of art, theEinsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR, staff of the leader of the Reich Rosenberg). This was one of the most important looting in France during the period.
Following this work carried out at the initiative of the Louvre Museum and the Ministry of Culture, the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Dispossession (CIVS), placed with the Prime Minister, recommended, at the end of the examination of this dossier during its session of July 2, 2021, the restitution of the four works to the rights holders of Moïse Levi de Benzion, which she helped identify and bring together.
This restitution was made possible by the proactive approach led by the State services and consisting, without waiting for the rights holders to manifest, in identifying the owner of the MNR works at the time of their plunder, then his current rights holders.
This approach, launched several years ago under the impetus of the Ministry of Culture, is regularly bearing fruit: 48 works and MNR objects have been restored since 2016, to which must be added 6 works MNR or assimilated returned on request of the beneficiaries during the same period, a total of 54 works returned.
To these results should also be added the 14 works from the national or territorial public collections on which the draft law on the restitution or surrender of certain cultural property to the rights holders of their owners victims of persecution anti-Semitic, presented by the Minister of Culture at the Cabinet meeting on November 3, 2021 and soon discussed in Parliament.
The records of the four restored works available on the Rose-Valland database: