Justice Dept. and FBI officials last week returned the Nazi-looted Dutch Old Master painting, “Young Man as Bacchus,” by Jan Franse Verzijl (1599-1647) to the Max and Iris Stern Foundation, in a ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. It is the sixteenth looted painting being returned.
Max Stern (1904-1987), the German-Jewish owner of a Dusseldorf art gallery, was expelled from the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts in 1935, because of his religion, and was forced to sell his Galerie Stern as well as his personal collection. In May 2015, the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Department of Financial Services, acting on behalf of the Stern Foundation, received an anonymous tip that the Verzijl painting was on display in Torino, Italy.
The HCPO contacted federal prosecutors who contacted the FBI who took action to seize the painting and began negotiations with the Luigi Caretto gallery, which waived their claim of ownership to the painting, which was then return to the Max and Iris Stern Foundation.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McGarrity said in a statement, “Works of art hold a special place in our society. Likewise, facilitating the return of stolen and missing works of art to their rightful owners is held in high regard among art crime investigators at the FBI. Today, we are proud to return the Verzijl painting Young Man as Bacchus to representatives of the Stern Foundation after more than 80 years.”
says Clarence Epstein, senior director of Urban and Cultural Affairs at Concordia University, a beneficiary of the Stern Foundation, said in a statement, “Over the last fifteen years, the assistance of law enforcement agencies in the United States, Canada and Germany has been invaluable to the advancement of the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, recognizing that forced sales of Nazi-era cultural property are equivalent to acts of theft remains the project’s guiding principle.”