A baroque landscape painting by 18th-century Austrian artist Johann Franz Nepomuk Lauterer, which went missing during World War II, has been returned to Germany. The FBI handed over the artwork to a German museum representative in a ceremony at the German Consulate in Chicago.
Art Recovery International, a Chicago-based company, discovered a “stolen or looted painting” that a Chicago resident claimed their uncle brought back after WWII. Art Recovery International founder Christopher Marinello said that being on the winning side doesn’t make it right, and the identity of the Chicago resident who had the painting was not shared.
The museum has reunited two paintings of a painting by the Vienna-born artist, Lauterer, which were previously stolen in 2011. The paintings, titled “Landscape of Italian Character” and “Landscape of Italian Character,” share similar motifs and imagery. The two paintings will be displayed together for the first time since World War II at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. The museum’s chief curator, Bernd Ebert, said the retrieval of the long-lost painting is a rare moment for the museum. Lauterer lived from 1700 to 1733.
The Lauterer painting, which has been missing since the start of the 1939 war, was first reported stolen from the Bavarian State Painting Collections in Munich, Germany. The painting was first discovered between 1965 and 1973, but no clues about its location emerged until decades later.
The artist, Ebert, flew from Munich to Chicago to retrieve the painting, which will be carefully bubble-wrapped and returned home for restoration. The painting was added to the German Lost Art Foundation’s database in 2012, indicating that it should fit in Ebert’s suitcase.