In the World War 2 era George Clooney film The Monuments Men, Clooney’s character leads a group played by John Goodman, Bill Murray, Matt Damon and others in an effort to recover artwork and other items of cultural significance stolen by the Nazis. The movie was based on a non-fiction book and the basis for the story was true.
In Columbus recently, one such piece of stolen art was recovered.
A relative of a late World War 2 soldier was conducting a genealogy search and discovered a few photos of a painting now known to be by the Polish artist Krzysztof Lubieniecki. The work, painted in 1728, is titled Portrait of a Young Man and it was stolen from the National Museum in Warsaw by the Nazis during the war. The painting made its way to Austria and was later found by the American GI. The soldier brought the painting home to the states. Years after the man died, his family (presumably not knowing the art’s history) sold the work to a buyer in Columbus….someone who also did not know its history. When the soldier’s relative found the pictures of the art during their research, the pieces of the story fell into place.
With all parties contacted, the local owner met with representatives of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage recently at the FBI’s downtown Columbus office and gladly returned the painting.
Thanks to the joint efforts of the United States authorities and our international partners, we [are pleased that we] could support the return of such an important work of art to its homeland. We are honored to return this painting to the Polish government and the National Museum.
– statement from the FBI
(photo credit: Embassy of Poland)