Nazi gold

A brilliantly named man (his name is Cornelius Gurlitt – I told you, right? Brilliant) is probably breathing so many sighs of relief right now that he’s in danger of passing out due to hyperventilation.

Part of his collection of almost-priceless artworks has just been returned to him having been confiscated for fear that they’d been looted by the Nazis back in the day.

The Nazis were seriously intent on stealing artworks from Jews in the ’30s and ’40s, and Gurlitt, who inherited the collection from his father, struck a deal with Germany’s cultural authorities and the Bavarian Justice Ministry, allowing for investigation into the collection. As per the conditions of the deal, works suspected of having been acquired by morally-dubious means are to be held and investigated, after which they will be returned to their original Jewish owners if found to have been stolen. If not, Gurlitt gets them back.

Uninvestigated works will be sent back to him too, if not subject to proprietary claims by the end of the year.

While a bunch have already been returned to Gurlitt, it’s not clear how many are likely to undergo investigation this year, though the man himself suggests, on his website that, “according to current information at most 3% of the 1,280 confiscated works” may be suspect.

[NOTE: 1,280 WORKS?!]

The collection, which was found in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in 2012, boasts works by Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse, Oskar Kokoschka, Canaletto, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Franz Marc and Gustave Courbet, which no one would blame Gurlitt for wanting to hang on to, but he has made claims that he wants to return any suspect works to their rightful owner.

The collection has been described as having a “value so high it cannot be estimated,” [TRANSLATION: literally, more money than you can imagine. All the money, and probably a few souls] and was first taken hostage by German tax authorities, and though the decision has been defended by the prosecution, new evidence has suggested that they were a little hasty in their actions.

Despite having described the paintings as “his only friends” (*SOB*) to German magazine Der Spiegel last year (as reported by CNN), 81-year-old Gurlitt has said that he “is prepared to review and arrive at fair solutions together with the claimants for those works that are suspected of being looted art in such instances where qualified, documented, and justified claims for their return are asserted by heirs of Jewish of persecution [sic] and where morally compelling grounds exist.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

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