Cornelius Gurlitt, who has hoarded billions of dollars worth of Nazi-looted art, has agreed to return all the works to their original owners or their descendants, many of whom were Jewish, his legal custodian said Wednesday.
The art works were discovered in February 2012 when German police raided Gurlitt’s Munich apartment as part of an investigation into possible tax evasion. Gurlitt got the art from his father, who had been a buyer and seller of the so-called “degenerate art” on Hitler’s orders during the Nazi era.
Gurlitt wants to “return all (artworks) that have been stolen or robbed from Jewish ownership to each of their owners or descendants,” lawyer Christoph Edel told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
The first piece to be return would be a portrait by Henri Matisse titled “Sitting Woman.” The painting once belonged to Jewish art collector Paul Rosenberg. After being looted by the Nazis, the piece ended up in German air force chief Hermann Goering’s collection before making it to Gurlitt’s apartment.
Another 180 works of art, beyond the original art collection discovered in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment, were discovered later at Gurlitt’s Austrian home and include a 1903 Claude Monet painting of London’s Tower Bridge.
But authorities believe the second collection may have been owned by Gurlitt’s grandfather Louis, and therefore cannot be suspected of including Nazi-looted art. German law states that only works acquired from 1933 through the present, but created before 1945, can be investigated as Nazi-looted art, according to the Jerusalem Post.