(FOX/ CNS) - A Nazi-looted Baroque masterpiece that turned up on the art market five years ago was returned last week to its owner, who plans to donate it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it was reported today
The life-size figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria, painted in Genoa around 1615 by Bernardo Strozzi, was installed Monday in the third floor galleries for European art, the Los Angeles Times reported on its website. The painting is estimated at between $2.5 million and $3 million.
It is highly unusual for a major painting plundered from a private party during wartime to be given to a museum upon restitution rather than be sold to settle claims from multiple heirs. It was returned to its owner on Friday.
The restitution of the Strozzi by an Italian court was made to Philippa Calnan, the original owner's sole direct descendant. Calnan, a retired public affairs director at LACMA and the J. Paul Getty Trust, is making the gift to the museum.
The luxurious picture is a testament to Counter-Reformation fervor within the Catholic Church. The figure is painted in iridescent tones of pale violet, rose, creamy white and gold, accented with bursts of crimson and green and emerging in a blaze of clear light from a dark background.
The painting, among Strozzi's supreme early achievements, disappeared after the 1943 Nazi occupation of Florence, one of nearly a dozen works stolen from the collection assembled by Charles A. Loeser, an American expatriate and heir to a Brooklyn department store fortune. Loeser moved to Italy in 1890 and died in 1928, according to The Times.
Ten years after Loeser's death, prior to the outbreak of World War II, Mussolini's fascist government passed a series of anti-Jewish "racial laws." Loeser's widow, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter left Florence before the
German occupation, leaving behind valuable works of art restricted from leaving Italy. The painting vanished in April 1944, after the Nazi prefect set up headquarters in the family's Villa Torri di Gattaia, located on the city's highest hill.
Painted when Strozzi was in his early 30s, the picture needs cleaning but appears to be in good condition, LACMA conservator Joseph Fronek told The Times.