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Germany’s Staatsgalerie Stuttgart museum returned a 15th century Renaissance painting stolen by Nazis during World War II to the estate of a Jewish art dealer. The museum acquired Virgin and Child, which is attributed to the Master of Flémalle (1375-1444) who is identified by historians as Robert Campin, in 1948.

The painting once belonged to Max Stern (1904-1987) who lost over 400 paintings to the Nazi regime during a forced sale in 1937. After Jews were banned from selling art in Nazi-occupied Europe, Stern shuttered his Dusseldorf gallery and escaped to London in December of the same year. Before settling in Montreal, Stern sold even more paintings, including Virgin and Child, in order to buy a German exit visa for his mother. Stern went on to purchase the Dominion Gallery of Fine Arts and established himself as one of Canada’s most important art dealers and collectors.

Upon his death in 1987, Stern donated a portion of his estate to Concordia and McGill Universities in Montreal as well as the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For the past ten years Concordia has been working to recover the hundreds of paintings Stern lost at the hands of the Nazis. The initiative, known as the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, has facilitated the return of 9 works originally belonging to Stern; Virgin and Child is the 10th and the only work to be returned from a German museum thus far.

A ceremony was held on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin to celebrate the painting’s return.  

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