SAN SIMEON, California (AP) – Two paintings from the 1500s that hung in Hearst Castle for decades are being returned to the family of Holocaust victims who were forced to sell them by the Nazis, authorities said.
A two-year investigation by the state determined that three paintings in the castle originally belonged to antique dealers Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer.
The Oppenheimers and other Jewish business owners were forced to sell their property in the 1930s. The Oppenheimers fled to France but later died in the Holocaust.
The heirs to their estate allowed California to retain ownership of one painting that will remain at the castle, the state Department of Parks and Recreations said Monday in a statement. The others were to be handed over to family representatives.
William Randolph Hearst, the wealthy publisher who built the castle and stocked it with art from around the world, didn’t know the ownership history when he acquired the paintings in 1935, the parks department said.
The 16th century paintings include a portrait of a man with a book and a necklace of shells around his shoulders that may be the work of Venetian artist Giovanni Cariani, according to the parks department.
A portrait of Venetian nobleman Alvise Vendramin is attributed to the school of Tintoretto and a painting of Venus and Cupid is attributed to the school of Venetian artist Paris Bordone.
The paintings were deeded to the state by the Hearst Corporation in 1972 when the castle and its belongings were transferred to the state.
An attorney for the Oppenheimer estate inquired about the paintings in March 2007, prompting a two-year investigation that concluded the works belonged to the Oppenheimer estate.
The Venus and Cupid painting will remain at Hearst Castle along with photographic reproductions of the other works, officials said.
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