In an era when people were afraid of losing their lives, many lost belongings were an afterthought. Robert Edsel, founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, and other foundation members made it a priority to protect aesthetic belongings, monuments and other cultural treasures, from the destruction and theft of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Now in the post-war era, the Monuments Men spend their time conducting research and investigations to repatriate pieces of art to the countries from which they were stolen.
It was recently discovered that a rare terracotta portrait bust, Portrait of a Woman, Probably Isabella d’Este, owned by The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas had been photographed in the Alt Aussee Salt Mine in Austria, one of many repositories for artwork stolen by the Nazis during World War II. After extensive investigation, it was proven that the Renaissance piece had been legally purchased by Hitler and by its subsequent owners thereafter, meaning Kimbell had full rights to retain the artwork. “We were intrigued but also apprehensive to discover that our sculpture was among the looted items in the salt mine,” commented Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “The Museum has a policy of returning works of art if it is learned that they were improperly sold or looted in continental Europe during the Nazi era, and I was relieved to learn that the Kimbell would not have to do so in this case, since there was documentation to prove that the work had been properly purchased.”
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