The Berlin Museum returns and then buys back Nazi-looted Pissarro from Jewish heirs

BERLIN – Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie museum handed over on Monday and repurchased a painting by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro looted by the Nazis from the collection of Jewish lawyer Armand Dorville.

Representatives of the Dorville family signed an agreement that the museum should return and buy back “Une Place a la Roche-Guyon” (“A Square in La Roche Guyon”), part of the permanent institution of the Berlin institution.

“I am very grateful to Armand Dorville’s heirs for allowing us to purchase the work for the Alte Nationalgalerie and for coming to Berlin specifically for this purpose,” said Hermann Parzinger, chairman of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Fund (SPK), which operates Berlin Museum.

He did not reveal how much the museum had paid for the painting, but said the family wanted it to be displayed in public, and the agreement was reached in a spirit of “good cooperation.”

Painted in 1867, “A Square in La Roche Guyon” was acquired by Armand Dorville in Paris in 1928.

After moving to the south of France, Dorville died in 1941, and his collection was distributed to museums and private collectors.

“Une Place a la Roche-Guyon” or “A Square in La Roche Guyon” By Camille Pissarro (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Alte Nationalgalerie)

The family could not escape from occupied France, and most members were killed by the Nazis who occupied the country from 1940-1944.

Several close relatives of Dorville’s brother Charles perished in Auschwitz.

Alte Nationalgalerie acquired “A Square in La Roche Guyon” from a gallery in London in 1961.

The Nazis stole thousands of works of art from Jewish families during World War II, and their recovery has been a slow process involving legal battles, complex searches, and some amazing finds.

The art plundered by the Nazi regime was intended to be resold, given to senior officials, or displayed in the Fuehrer Museum (Leader’s Museum), which Adolf Hitler planned for his hometown of Linz, but was never built.

In January 2020, two paintings by Jean-Louis Forain and a third by Constantin Guys were returned to the heirs of Armand Dorville from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of an art dealer in the Third Reich.

More than 1,500 works of art were discovered in 2012 in Munich’s pensioner, who died in 2014.

His father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, had worked as an art dealer for the Nazis since 1938.

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