Uffizi Asks for Return of Stolen Artwork

“We hope that 2019 will see the return of Flowers in a Vase by a 17th century Dutch artist Jan van Huysum to the Uffizi, which was stolen by the Nazi soldiers during the Second World War,” said Uffizi director Eike Schmidt in Florence on New Year’s Day.

Schmidt, who is German, spoke directly to Germany via the Uffizi’s social media channels, explaining that “the painting is a private collection belonging to a German family who has not yet given the work back to the museum despite numerous requests by the Italian government.”

A black-and-white photo of Flowers in a Vase now hangs in the Palatine Gallery (the museums in the Pitti Palace complex are now part of the Uffizi Galleries) where it was originally located.  Below is a caption in Italian, English and German, which reads “Stolen!  This work was stolen by the soldiers of the Nazi army in 1944 and is now in a German private collection.”

Flowers in a Vase by Jan van Huysum (Amsterdam, 1682 – 1749) is an oil painting acquired by Grand Duke Leopoldo II for the newly opened Palatine Gallery in 1824.  The work was displayed at Pitti for over a century until 1940, when it was hidden in the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano.  In 1943, “Vase with Flowers” was moved to another location, Florence’s Villa Bossi Pucci, where it stayed out of sight until German soldiers opened the crate where it was stored and carried it off, completely disappearing for many years after its last sighting near Bolzano on the way to Germany.”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany in 1991, the work was found.  Since then, intermediaries have been trying to sell the painting back to the Uffizi.  After the last, recent attempt, Florence’s district attorney has opened an investigation which may result in charges being pressed for extortion also because Flowers in a Vase actually belongs to the Italian government and theoretically cannot be sold.

Schmidt points out that “Germany should abolish the statute of limitations regarding war booty and play an active role in returning property to their rightful owners,” adding “Germany has a moral duty to return the painting to our museum; I hope that this will happen as soon as possible, together, obviously, with all other works carried off by the Nazi army.”

“We would be happy to remove the photo and the sign,” said Schmidt, “after the original comes home to the Uffizi.”  (rosanna cirigliano)