Don’t blame the Nazis for a Tallahassee, Fla. museum losing a famed piece of artwork last week. Blame a Frenchman — though he was possibly working with the Nazis.
Either way, U.S. government agents seized the 500-year-old Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rascal by Girolamo de’ Romani from the Mary Brogan Museum of Art & Science in an effort to return the long-ago stolen work to its alleged rightful home, now in Italy.
Stolen from the estate of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe in 1941 (he died in 1940) via a forced auction after the Nazi army invaded France, Gentili’s grandchildren have worked diligently to get back artwork and other valuables lost during the occupation via the sale.
During the Nazi invasion, France’s Vichy Regime forced the sale of Gentili’s valuable estate after Gentili’s children fled France to Canada and the United States. In 1999, a French Court of Appeals required a Paris museum to return five paintings to the family, ruling the 1941 estate auction was illegal.
That opened the door for the family to go after other known pieces sold in the auction, including the painting that had hung in Tallahassee for about eight months, on loan from a gallery in Milan, Italy.
The fate of the painting, seized by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, hangs in the balance of the courts, as judges must now decide who owns the piece, either the Italian gallery or the Gentili family, also in Italy.
Just don’t expect the artwork back in Tallahassee anytime soon.