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January 30, 2023 10:33 am

Museum in Spain Returns to Poland Two Paintings Stolen by Nazis During World War II


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Vice President of the Provincial Council César Mosquera and a representative of the Polish government hold up a restitution agreement for the paintings Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) and Ecce Homo, which are on display on the right. Photo: Screenshot.

Spain’s Museum of Pontevedra said it has turned over two 15th century paintings to Polish authorities after it was discovered that they had been looted by the Nazis during World War II.

Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) and Ecce Homo were handed over to Poland after César Mosquera, vice president of the Pontevedra Provincial Council, and a representative of the Polish government formally signed a restitution agreement on Jan. 25.

“We’re helping to restore an injustice, helping to restore plundered art, helping in whatever way we can to make the world a better place,” said Mosquera.

The two paintings are part of 700 pieces that Nazi forces stole from the Czartoryski collection in the Polish village of Gołuchów during World War II. So far the Polish government has only been able to recover one other piece from this same collection, according to the museum. 

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Mater Dolorosa and Ecce Homo were originally thought to be painted by renowned Flemish painter Dieric Bouts, who was born in 1420, but it was later revealed that they were created by a member of his school or group. It is believed that the artworks left Warsaw in 1944 and found its way to Madrid in 1973. The Museum of Pontevedra has maintained ownership of the two paintings since 1994 following the purchase of an art collection owned by Spanish collector José Fernández López.

The Polish government contacted the Museum of Pontevedra in 2020 and made them aware of the fact that the two paintings were looted by the Nazis. The museum agreed to return the artwork to Poland, but the legal process, which included official permits for the transaction, delayed the transfer until now.

“The unit for the recovery of plundered works of the Polish Ministry of Culture identified these paintings through one of our Facebook posts, publicizing some of our works,” said museum director José Manuel Rey.

The paintings will be received by the National Museum in Poznań and then transferred to the Gołuchów Castle museum.

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