US agents on Friday seized from a Florida museum an Italian Renaissance painting that officials said was stolen from a Jewish family in France during World War II.
The Girolamo Romano work Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rascal was seized from the Mary Brogan Museum Of Art and Science in Tallahassee, Florida, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said.
“The painting was seized through formal legal proceedings, to protect the art until its real ownership is finally confirmed,” an ICE statement said.
The painting, which dates to about 1538 from an artist also known as Il Romanino, depicts Christ, crowned with thorns and wearing a copper-colored silk robe, carrying the cross on his right shoulder while being dragged with a rope by a soldier.
It has been on display at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science since March 18 and was part of an exhibition of 50 paintings on loan from the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, Italy.
A US government complaint said evidence showed the painting was among many works of art taken in a forced sale from the estate of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe. Gentili died in 1940 in Paris months before the Nazi army invaded France.
Gentili’s grandchildren have taken legal steps internationally to find and reclaim works illegally taken from their family during the Nazi occupation in one of many cases involving looted art.
“It’s never too late to right a wrong,” Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said. “Many people know about the massive theft and illegal sale of precious art belonging to Jewish families during World War II. They should also know that today there is an international network of law enforcement agencies working diligently to correct these injustices.”
Media reports said the painting was insured for US$2.5 million and was purchased in 1998 by the Italian museum.
US Attorney Pamela Marsh said that under US law, the painting cannot be returned to Italy until the disputes are resolved.
“Our interest is strictly to follow the law and safeguard this work until the courts determine rightful ownership,” she said. “Through this process, all rightful claimants may be heard, and we can rest assured that justice will be done for all parties involved in the dispute.”