Turin museum pays settlement to Jewish heirs for Renaissance Madonna that was looted by Nazis

A financial settlement has been reached with the rightful heirs of a Renaissance painting by Jacopo del Sellaio that was looted by Nazi authorities in France during the Second World War. The agreement between the Cerruti Foundation of Turin, which is now part of the Castello di Rivoli, and the family of the Jewish art collector Gustav Arens, a Viennese businessman, means that the painting will remain in the museum.

Jacopo del Sellaio's Madonna and Child with the Young St John and Two Angels (1480-85) Photo: © Alessandro Fiamingo. Courtesy of the Castello di Rivoli Museo dArte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin

The work, Madonna and Child with the Young St. John and Two Angels, dates from between 1480 and 1485 and hangs in the tower room of Villa Cerruti, a museum that opened in 2019 and is devoted to the collection of Francesco Federico Cerruti in Turin.

After Arens died in 1936, his eldest daughter, Anna Unger, inherited the work. She fled Austria with her family in 1938, heading first to France and then to the US. The Ungers tried unsuccessfully to export their art collection from the Paris customs warehouse where it was stored. It was plundered in 1942.

After the war, the family recovered a large part of the collection with the help of American military forces, but some works had vanished, including the Madonna. The painting was sold at least twice before Cerruti purchased it, unaware of its past, and he hung it in his bedroom.

Jacopo del Sellaios painting in the tower bedroom at Villa Cerruti Photo: Francesco Federico Cerruti, late 1980s. Courtesy of the Castello di Rivoli Museo dArte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin

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