The Art Loss Register sent out this press release today.
A portrait of a child with her pet rabbit by Belgian artist, Antoine (Anto) Carte that was looted by the Nazis during the Belgian Occupation has been returned to its owner after the Art Loss Register (ALR) located it in the hands of an art dealer from Long Island, USA. ‘Jeune Fille a la Robe Bleue’ (1932) was the centrepiece of a hand-over ceremony at the Jewish Museum of Belgium on 1 December 2009.
The Jewish child in the portrait fled Brussels with her family during the Nazi Occupation and survived the war hiding in the Belgian countryside. The family’s abandoned apartment in Ohain was looted in 1944 and five oil paintings, including the Anto Carte portrait, disappeared. In 1946, the family filed a claim for their missing paintings at the Belgian office for looted art and the portrait was listed in theRépertoire d’oeuvres d’art dont la Belgique a été spoliée durant la guerre 1939-1945, a publication of Belgian war losses.
Decades later, the ALR recorded the Carto picture in its database of lost and stolen art and began to search for it in auction catalogues and on the internet.
In 2008, the Register traced what it believed to be the Carte portrait to a Long Island gallery owned by Andre Sakhai and contacted the Belgian Commission for Restitution Matters to verify the discovery. Although the missing Carte portait was not illustrated in the ‘Répertoire d’oeuvres d’art dont la Belgique a été spoliée durant la guerre 1939-1945’, a black and white photograph of a child was given to the ALR by the Belgian authorities and the similarity to the discovered portrait was unmistakeable.
The ALR’s Executive Director and General Counsel in New York, Christopher A. Marinello, enlisted the help of Bonnie W. Goldblatt, senior special agent with the US Department of Homeland Security, Art & Antiquities Recovery Unit (ICE). Mr Sakhai was informed that the picture had been confiscated by the Nazis and that it was listed as an official war loss and he co-operated in forfeiting the painting.
This is not the first time that the ALR has successfully traced artworks with a Belgian wartime provenance. In 2006, a Picasso painting that went missing in Brussels following the detention of its Jewish owner in the concentration camp at Malines/Mechelen was the subject of a settlement negotiated by the ALR on behalf of the heirs of the original owner and a private US collector.