Art stolen by Nazis given to Fitzwilliam Museum

Image credit: Andrew Dunn

A 16th century painting, once stolen by the Nazis, has recently been given to the Fitzwilliam Museum. It has been on display in the museum’s Spanish gallery since 2001, but only on loan. It is now the permanent property of the Fitzwilliam.

The painting itself is a panel from a larger altar piece, attributed to the unnamed ‘Master of St Christopher meeting the Devil’, named after this painting. According to legend, St Christopher lived in the third century AD and desired to serve the greatest leader possible. He believed this to be the devil. However, when he saw that the devil cowered before images of the cross, he realised that the devil was not the greatest master possible and instead began to serve God.

The Nazis acquired the painting when they arrested vocal opponent to Nazism, Karl Motesiczky, in Vienna in 1942. Motesiczky died of Typhus in Auschwitz a year later.

After the war, Motesiczky’s mother – who had fled to England with her daughter, Marie-Louise, to escape Hitler’s regime – contacted the Bavarian State Art Collection, who had acquired the painting, to request its return to her family. The painting was the property of the Motesiczky family until 1996, when it was acquired by the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Fund.

The transfer of the painting to permanent residence in the Fitzwilliam was completed shortly before this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day which was on 27 January

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