Museum in Boston returning 17th-century Dutch painting to the heirs of Jewish collectors

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The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) has agreed to return a looted 17th-century painting to the descendants of a Jewish art collector who last owned it before it was declared missing after World War II.

In an opinion, Matthew Teitelbaum, Director of the MFA, said it was “pleased to have worked so promptly and amicably with Ferenc Chorin’s heirs to repair this historic loss”.

The painting from 1646 “View of Beverwijk” by Dutch Golden Age painter Salomon van Ruysdael had been deposited by Chorin at the Hungarian Merchant Bank of Pest in 1943 before his family fled Hungary the following year. Chorin bought the painting in the 1930s from the estate of fellow collector Frigyes Glück.

“The return of Ruysdael’s view of Beverwijk underscores the importance of transparency and providing online access to our collection,” said Teitelbaum.

The painting is currently on public view at Christie’s in New York. It will be auctioned later this year.

As the MFA noted, Chorin was a prolific Hungarian industrialist and banker with an impressive collection of artworks, including paintings by François Millet and Charles-François Daubigny, and Italian Renaissance furniture. Despite being discovered by the Nazis after he went into hiding, Chorin survived the war and eventually settled in New York City.

“Historical justice does not only mean the return of works of art looted by the Nazis. In many cases, the plaintiffs have to fight for years to get justice,” said Agnes Peresztegi, lawyer for the Chorin family. “In this case, I would like to commend the State Department for not only returning the work to its rightful owners, but also for doing so in an elegant, professional, quick and fair manner.”

‘View of Beverwijk’ was acquired by the MFA from a London dealer in 1982 under a false description, obscuring its status as a lost work of art. The museum was informed in 2019 by scholar and researcher Sándor Juhász that the painting once belonged to luck, which eventually led to the discovery of Chorin’s family in 2021.

Just last month, US officials agreed to return $11 million worth of Italian artwork and antiques illegally smuggled into the country. In December, the US returned 201 artifacts to Italy, of which 161 were relocated there.

Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini said at the time that the artworks would be returned to where they were stolen. Pieces returned included ancient pottery and a 4th-century sculpture.

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