Barent Fabritius’s seventeenth-century painting Man Reading, one of the Nazi-looted works currently on view at the Louvre. Photo: The Louvre.

Louvre Steps Up Its Restitution Efforts

For the first time since World War II ended, the Louvre in Paris is dedicating an area of the museum for the presentation of Nazi-looted artworks as part of a new restitution strategy. Now on permanent display are thirty-one artworks, including pieces from the Italian Renaissance and pre-revolutionary France. 

“Our objective is very clearly to restitute everything we can,” Sébastien Allard, the Louvre’s chief curator of paintings, said. By identifying objects classified as Musées Nationaux Récupération (Museums National Recovery) works—which includes sixty-one thousand objects that were recovered in Germany and returned to France after World War II—the Louvre is attempting to encourage descendants of the pieces’ original owners to come forward. According to the museum, more than forty-one thousand works have been returned to the heirs of the families who were persecuted by the Nazi regime. The Louvre currently has 2,143 unclaimed MNR works in its collection, and 1,752 of those artworks are kept at affiliated museums across France. 

Located on the second floor of the Richelieu wing, the works are accompanied by a text that aims to raise awareness about the provenance of the pieces and the importance of restitution. Seventy-six additional works that were seized by the Nazis can also be found on display throughout the museum. While many people have applauded the museum’s decision to make these works more visible in order to step up its restitution efforts, critics are saying that the move has come a little too late. “This is the type of thing that should have been done in the late 1990s,” Christopher Marinello, a London-based art-restitution lawyer told the Washington Post. “The fact that this comes twenty years after the Washington Declaration is completely pathetic, especially for a museum with the funding and the stature that the Louvre has.”