Renoir painting looted by Nazis returned to rightful owner's heir

A Renoir painting 'Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin,' stolen by the Nazis was returned to the heir of its rightful owner Sylvie Sulitzer during a ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York

Sadly, Sulitzer, her grandfather's sole heir, said she may have to sell the painting in order to pay back restitution she has already collected from the German and French governments.

Weinberger put some of his paintings in a bank vault for safekeeping before fleeing from the Nazis in France.

Pierre-August Renoir painted "Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin" in 1919, the past year of his life as he suffered the painful effects of arthritis.

The Weinbergers would never see it again.

An original Renoir work looted by the Nazis is back in the hands of its rightful owner some eight decades later.

The painting, created in the past year of Renoir's life, is a whirlwind of broad brushstrokes depicting the blurred figures of two women sitting in the grass near what appears to be a large tree. It would instead travel around the world, changing hands and eluding the Weinberger family.

Weinberger died when Sulitzer, now 59, was a teenager, without ever getting the Renoir and a handful of other paintings returned to him.

'Certainly over the last five years, this has been an effort to reclaim the painting and reconnect it with Mrs. Sulitzer'.

Sylvie Sulitzer, the grandchild of collector Alfred Weinberger, was invited to an official returning ceremony organised by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NY.

"Deux Femmes" was in the collection of Sulitzer's grandfather, Alfred Weinberger, when the Nazis occupied France and looted his bank vault. Sulitzer said he fled the city to avoid being pressed into service by the Nazis for his art expertise. It resurfaced in Johannesburg in 1975, was sold in London in 1977 and then appeared for sale in Zurich in 1999.

"My family left Paris to escape the Gestapo", Sulitzer said during a press conference at the museum Wednesday.

A Renoir painting "Femmes Dans Un Jardin" is displayed at a news conference, September 12, 2018, in NY.

This was the first time she was hearing about it, she said.

"I hope everybody will, one day or another, have the justice as I had", she said.

But she immediately agreed with the attorneys that she wanted to find it, she said.

United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman unveiled the property of Weinberger's only heir with Sulitzer at his side, at a news conference on Wednesday.

"The ERR meticulously registered and identified the artworks that were plundered, including providing detailed descriptions and even photographing them, leaving behind a detailed record of the works that they stole", Berman said.

It had been in NY since at least 2005, when it appeared for sale at Sotheby's.

Christie's said that in 2013, when the painting was consigned, it was estimated to be worth between $150,000 and $200,000.

Federal authorities in Manhattan and the FBI investigated the painting and its history. And Sulitzer made her claim.

"It's a lot of emotion because you really realise how people are concerned about what happened because it's so easy just to say okay it's the past", she said.

Park West Gallery has said it refunded the buyer who purchased the painting from their sale in 2009, once learning of its origin. "It's more the symbol of the life I had with them".

The granddaughter of a Jewish art collector faces saying farewell to a stolen Renoir painting she spent nearly a decade trying to find.

She will also need to pay back financial compensation given by the German state.

She said: "I am so grateful to be able to show my much-loved family, wherever they may be, that after everything they went through, there has been justice".

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