September 9th 2011

Painting in small museum said to be stolen by Nazis

You wouldn’t think that a painting in a small Florida museum could be under scrutiny to have been stolen by Nazis in World War II, but it’s true.

During the last couple weeks of a recently closed exhibit at The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science, they’ve discovered that this might just be the case.

The museum, located in Tallahassee, Florida, has been ordered not to return one of the fifty pieces that were loaned to it by a Milan museum after a recent exhibit. Authorities contacted the museum after learning that it might have been stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

The 473-year-old painting, Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue, by Renaissance artist Girolamo Romano is the painting in question.

United States authorities are working alongside the Brogan Museum and the Italian government to determine the owners of the painting. They’re also trying to figure out what to do with it.

The painting was one of the many in the exhibit entitled Baroque Painting in Lombardy from Pinacoteca di Brera. The exhibit ran from March 18th earlier this year to just last weekend.

The museum’s CEO, Chucha Barber, was notified by the United States attorney’s office in July that the painting may have been stolen and involved with the Nazis and World War II. The museum has received permission to display the painting for at least two more months, while the United States and Italian governments work to resolve the issue.

The Brogan Museum is in the midst of a crucial fundraising campaign: a five-month, $500,000 capital campaign that was launched to meet day-to-day expenses and payroll. The museum invested heavily to bring the Baroque exhibit to the Brogan, and would like the painting to be a part of it.

“I see this as a teachable moment regarding the value of museums and museum objects,” Barber told the Tallahassee Democrat in a recent interview. “It’s also one family’s incredible story about the atrocities of the Holocaust.”

According to USA Today, “it is believed that the Nazi-sympathetic French Vichy government seized and sold the work in question, when the Gentili family — the Jewish family that owned the masterwork — fled Nazi occupation during the war.”

Though Barber did not know the appraised value for Girolamo Romano’s painting, she said it was insured for 1.5 million Euros, which is about $2.5 million.

The entire exhibit at the musem is valued at more than $30 million. Barber estimated that it cost the museum about $425,000 to bring the exhibition to Tallahassee.

Painting details:

Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue
Girolamo Romano
c. 1538
Oil on canvas
31.9 inches by 28.3 inches

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Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.