WARSAW, Poland (AFP) – Poland’s culture minister said Wednesday that Russia has yet to return several paintings seized by the Soviet Red Army at the end of World War II, including one by Flemish artist Brueghel.
“Of 31 official restitution requests by Poland, 18 concern works located in Russia,” Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski told reporters.
Most are paintings, including some several centuries old, such as works by the Baroque-era Jan Brueghel the Elder and German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder.
The landscape by Brueghel, Cranach’s Madonna and Child, and a painting of a merchant by German painter Hans Holbein the Younger are currently at Moscow’s Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the minister said.
Other requested items include coins of the Order of the Teutonic Knights, warrior-monks who wielded power along the Baltic coast from the 13th century.
In most cases, Germany was first to seize the works after invading Poland in 1939, before the Soviet Union’s Red Army claimed them in 1945 as war spoils.
Poland’s borders were redrawn following the war, muddying the question of restitution.
But Zdrojewski noted “progress” in Poland’s dealings with Moscow regarding the claims, most of which it filed in 2004 and 2012.
“Only a few years ago, our restitution claims were dismissed as unfounded. Today, our requests are no longer called into question.”
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