US orders Italian painting held for link to Nazis
US authorities ordered a Florida museum not to return an Italian Renaissance painting on loan from a Milan collection to determine if it was stolen from a Jewish family in France in World War II, the museum said Thursday.
Chucha Barber, chief executive of The Mary Brogan Museum of Art & Science in Tallahassee said the museum was told to hold the Girolamo Romano work "Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue," part of a larger exhibit of Italian paintings, to determine its rightful owner.
Before the end of an exhibit September 4, Barber said she was contacted by US attorney's office, which ordered the 16th century painting to remain in the United States while the question of ownership is determined.
"Federal officials have requested my museum not to return one of 50 paintings on loan from a museum in Italy," she told AFP.
The 1538 painting, on loan from the Brera Art Gallery in Milan, could belong to the Gentili family, a Jewish family which left Italy and were in Vichy-ruled France in World War II when their collection was seized, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, the newspaper that first reported the story.
The daily said that the museum was contacted by Lionel Salem, a descendant of the Gentilis who has been seeking to recover artwork stolen from his family.
Barber declined to discuss specifics of the case, saying that "the family members behind this case were told they cannot give statements to the press until the hearing that will be held in Rome the week of September 26."
"A couple of them (family) are in England and a couple of them in France," Barber said.
The Tallahassee paper said the Gentili has recovered five paintings from France's Louvre museum in court proceedings and was pursuing similar efforts elsewhere.
The painting, which the daily said was insured for $2.5 million, remains on display during the judicial proceedings.
© 2011 AFP