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Italian Museum Wants Germany to Return Painting Stolen by Nazis


Uffizi Gallery director Eike Schmidt holds up a copy of "Vase of Flowers" by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum, with writing in red reading "Stolen."
Italian Museum Wants Germany to Return Painting Stolen by Nazis
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The director of a well-known art museum in Italy is urging Germany to return a Dutch painting stolen by Nazi troops during World War II.

Eike Schmidt is director of Uffizi Gallery, a museum in the Italian city of Florence. He is making the issue known by hanging a black-and white image of the painting. The word “Stolen” appears on the image in three languages.

Schmidt said this week that the painting “Vase of Flowers” by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum is in the hands of a German family that has refused to return it – even after many appeals. Representatives for the family have demanded payment for its return to Italy.

The “Vase of Flowers” painting is worth millions of dollars. It was first put on display in Florence in 1824, after Grande Duke Leopoldo II bought it for his art collection.

Schmidt said, “The painting is already the inalienable property of the Italian State, and thus cannot be ‘bought.”

The oil painting hung as part of Leopoldo II’s collection from 1824 until World War II. It was moved to a village for safety during the war, but Nazi troops stole it. It did not appear again until Germany reunified in 1991, when the offers to sell it back to Italy began.

Schmidt, who is German, said issues like these are preventing the healing of wounds from the war. “Germany should not apply the statute of limitations to works of art stolen during the war,” he said, adding that the country must ensure those works are returned to their owners.

He called it Germany’s “moral duty” to return the artwork. “I trust that the German government will do so at the earliest opportunity,” he said.”

I’m Alice Bryant.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

museumn. a building where interesting and valuable things (such as paintings or historical objects) are collected and shown to the public

displayadv. put somewhere for people to see

inalienableadj. impossible to take away or give up

statute of limitationsn. a law that states the amount of time that must pass before a crime can no longer be punished or a right can no longer be given

moraladj. concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior

opportunityn. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

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