Two Paintings Once Stolen by Nazis Are Donated to the Louvre Museum

These two artworks were looted by Nazis during World War II, but later recovered and returned to their Jewish owners, who donated them to the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Jun 11, 2024By Rosie Lesso, MA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine Art

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During World War II’s Nazi invasion, countless artworks were looted from museums, galleries, and the homes of Jewish families, including works by the world’s most revered artists. Among those that were retrieved after the war were two rare 17th century Dutch paintings: Floris van Schooten’s Still Life With Ham, (1630?) and Peter Binoit’s Food, Fruit and Glass on a Table, (1620?). It is only recently that the family of the original owners was uncovered by a team of experts working with the National Museum Recuperation program in Paris. But instead of keeping the artworks, the family chose to donate them to the Louvre Museum permanent collection.


The Nazi Raid in 1944

Artworks being rescued following World War II. Source: The National World War II Museum


In 1944, as part of countless Nazi raids, the paintings were taken by the Nazis from a mansion at 5 rue Mauberg on the 7th arondissement of Paris in 1944. The home belonged to Mathilde Javal, daughter of doctor Emile Javal and his wife Maria Ellissen. Their family was torn apart by the war, with some deported to Auschwitz and killed, while others fought in the resistance or went into hiding. It is thought the paintings were taken to Germany in the autumn of 1944.


Temporary Display in the Louvre Museum, Paris

Vintage postcard of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Source: Etsy


After the war, the paintings were found, along with approximately 60,000 others during the 1950s and returned to France. Unable to confirm the original owners, government officials placed the artworks in the care of the Louvre Museum in Paris, where they were held as part of the National Museum Recuperation program, an organization set up for artworks stolen by the Nazis, whose original owners could not be identified. While around 45,000 of the looted artworks were returned to their rightful owners, it would be several decades before the two still life paintings were returned to the Javal family.


Returning Stolen Art

Still Life With Ham by Floris van Schooten (1630?). Source:

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Javal survived the war, but she was unable to retrieve her paintings due to insufficient documentation proving ownership. She had put in an application after the war, but spelling errors in the name and address of her paperwork made her attempts unsuccessful. However, thanks to a team of genealogy experts, along with the French Ministry of Culture, who began their research for the National Museum Recuperation program in 2015, the two paintings were returned to the ownership of Javal’s family of 48 descendants in December 2023. Director of the Louvre, Laurence Des Cars, called the artwork retrieval a “commitment to transmitting memory and a constant reminder to action.”


A Donation to the Louvre Museum

Food, Fruit and Glass on a Table, (1620?), by Peter Binoit. Source: Smithsonian Magazine


The surviving Javal family chose to return the artworks to the Louvre Museum, where they had been on display since the 1950s. This decision was, as one family member explains, a “duty of memory towards… [our] family, looted from and persecuted, whose history speaks to current generations.” They handed over the paintings in an official ceremony held at the Louvre last Tuesday, which was attended by Javal’s family heirs.


On Display Today

An earlier display in the Louvre revealing artworks once stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Source: Konbini


The paintings are now on permanent display in the Louvre as part of an exhibition revealing artworks stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The exhibition room also reveals the Javal family history, their relationship to the artworks, and the ordeals they faced during Nazi persecution. A spokesperson for the Louvre observed of the artworks, “These two are not masterpieces worth tens of millions. They are by artists unknown to the general public, but they are very beautiful works of a quality to be put on display in a museum.” A member of the Javal family says the new display, which features the stories of numerous other stolen artworks like theirs, is a vitally important historical record which “testifies to a rich and interesting group of people.”

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By Rosie LessoMA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine ArtRosie is a contributing writer and artist based in Scotland. She has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly, and Scottish Art News, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can really enrich our experience of art.