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France gives back Nazi-seized paintings as Clooney's Monuments Men hits French screens

media The poster for The Monuments Men

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.

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.

It is based on a non-fiction book by Robert M. Edsel.

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