France returns artworks stolen by Nazis as Clooney film is released

Three paintings are to be returned to their rightful owners the day before the release of a film about a WWII army unit dedicated to saving artworks.

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France is to give back three paintings pillaged by the Nazis on Tuesday, the day before George Clooney's film The Monuments Men opens in French cinemas, reports RFI.

The conjunction of these two events "is an opportunity to remind people that Culture Minister Aurélie Flipetti is very attached to this gesture of remembrance," France's culture ministry told the AFP news agency on Saturday.

The works are: Mountain landscape by Flemish master Joos de Momper (1564-1635), which belonged to Baron Cassel van Doorn, a Belgian banker who had residences in France and whose property was confiscated in 1943 although he was not Jewish; Portait of a woman, an 18th-century painting, possibly by Louis Tocqué, that belonged to Berlin Jewish art dealers Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer; Virgin with child after Lippo Memmi or an associate seized from banker Richard Soepkez in Cannes in 1944.

About 2,000 works whose owners have not been identified are being held in French museums.

Only about 70 have been handed over to descendants of the owners in the last 20 years.

The Monuments Men, whose cast includes Matt Damon, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and French actor Jean Dujardin, tells the story of a group charged with finding and saving artworks and other culturally important items during World War II.

Read more of this report from RFI.

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