Painting ‘Landscape of Italian Character’ Returns To Museum

An American soldier stole a 300-year-old painting called the ‘Landscape of Italian Character’ during World War II. It returned to the Bavarian Museum after being missing since 1945.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) returned a baroque landscape painting to the Bavarian Museum in Germany. An American soldier stole the “Landschaft italienischen Charakters” or the “Landscape of Italian Character” painting during World War II.

The FBI’s Art Crime Team returned the painting to the museum representatives in a brief ceremony at the German Consulate in Chicago. Austrian artist Johann Franz Nepomuk Lauterer created the masterpiece that depicts an Italian countryside. 

Art Recovery International tracked down the painting after an anonymous person called and claimed possession of a “stolen painting.” The tipster’s uncle brought the painting to the US after the war. 

Lawyer and founder of Art Recovery International Christopher Marinello spent years securing important artworks the Nazis had stolen during the war. Another painting goes home to its rightful place with help from the FBI.

READ ALSO: Unsolved Disappearance: A $3.7 Million Rodin Sculpture Has Been Missing For Almost 75 Years

Soldiers used to take objects as “trophies of war”

Marinello expressed that Art Recovery International encountered circumstances wherein soldiers took objects home as trophies of war. He added that winning wars “doesn’t make it right.”

The anonymous informant asked for payment in exchange for the painting in question, but Marinello said the request was inappropriate. He explained as well that his organization has a policy against paying for stolen artworks. 

The Landscape of Italian Character painting
The “Landscape of Italian Character” painting/Photo via the FBI’s official website

Marinello recounted that someone tried to sell the painting in the Chicago art market in 2011. It disappeared when the museum “put forth their claim.” 

The FBI Art Crime Team, attorneys, the museum, and Marinello came up with negotiations that resulted in the painting’s unconditional surrender.

The Associated Press reported that the Bavarian State Painting Collections first attempted to search for the painting between 1965 and 1973. The painting’s whereabouts did not surface until decades later.

‘Landscape of Italian Character’ reunites with its counterpart

The German museum said that the “Landscape of Italian Character” painting is set to reunite with its counterpart. The other painting shares the same imagery and theme. 

The two paintings form a panoramic countryside scene with tending shepherds, travelers, and animals by the river once enjoined. Museum curator of baroque paintings Bernd Ebert said that the Alte Pinakothek in Munich will display the pair for the first time since the war.

Ebert exclaimed that retrieving a long-lost painting is exciting and is a “very rare moment.”

Bernd Ebert with the Landscape of Italian Character
Bernd Ebert with the “Landscape of Italian Character”/Photo via the FBI’s official website

Two paintings reuniting is a “stroke of good fortune”

FBI Chicago Field Office’s Robert W. Wheeler Jr. said that the FBI Art Crime Team’s dedication led to the return of the painting to its rightful home. Wheeler recognized the organization’s ability of recovering more than 20,000 artifacts valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Bavarian State Minister for Science and Arts Markus Blume expressed his gratitude for the agency as well. He reiterated that the painting’s surrender is not only an act of historical justice, but also an appreciation of cultural heritage. 

Ebert said reuniting Lauterer’s landscape masterpieces is “a real stroke of good fortune.” He added that the painting is to be restored and its presentation is planned for the near future.

The repatriation ceremony of the Landscape of Italian Character
The repatriation ceremony of the “Landscape of Italian Character”/Photo via the FBI’s official website

“This restitution would not have been possible without the swift action of the FBI Art Crime Team,” Marinello said. He honored the agency’s commitment in finding the stolen painting.

Banner photo via the FBI’s official website.

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