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Nazi-looted painting returned to heirs of French resistance fighter

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By Alice Tidey
Nazi-looted painting returned to heirs of French resistance fighter
Copyright  Associated Press

German officials on Tuesday returned a Nazi-looted painting to the descendants of French resistance figure Georges Mandel.

"Portrait of a Seated Young Woman" was painted in the 19th century by French artist Thomas Couture. It belonged to Mandel, a French politician, but was looted by Nazi troops during World War II.

Mandel himself was executed by a French militia in 1944 but a report on the looted piece of art filed after the war mentioned a small repaired hole near the chest of the young woman in the painting.

That small detail helped identify the painting when it was found in 2012 in the extensive private collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, a Bavarian collector who had inherited most of his treasure trove from his father, an art dealer who traded works seized by the Nazis.

"We, the heirs, are very happy to get the painting back after more than 78 years," one of Mandel's heirs, Franz Reiner Wolfgang Joachim Kleinertz, told reporters at the ceremony on Tuesday.

"This painting was stolen from the apartment of Georges Mandel in 1940. I want to thank all parties involved, especially the Jeu de Paume (art museum in Paris)," he added.

German Culture Minister Monika Grutters, who was also present at the ceremony, said she was "very happy" to see the painting returned to its rightful owners.

"It shows once more that the elaborate and challenging provenance research — which we are asked again and again if we really have to carry out — does justice and truth a genuine service," she added.