PARIS – The Henri Matisse painting "Le Mur Rose" was once seized by Nazis. As of Thursday, it belongs to a charity that supports Israeli ambulances.
"It is a moment of justice, a moment of memory," French Culture Minister Christine Albanel said. She spoke at a ceremony in Paris at which France handed the painting over to British charity Magen David Adom UK.
It was the culmination of a seven-decade journey for the painting — a journey that has now, in a way, come full circle.
"Le Mur Rose," or "The Pink Wall," belonged to a German Jew named Harry Fuld Jr. But when Fuld fled Nazi Germany in 1937, Nazis confiscated the artwork. After the war, French Gendarmes found the painting in 1948 near the home of Nazi officer Kurt Gerstein, who was responsible for delivering poison gas to the Auschwitz death camp.
The painting was returned to France and became part of the collection at the Pompidou Center national museum of modern art in Paris.
The piece is among some 2,000 valuable works held by France's national museums that were seized during World War II and are listed in a government database. German historian Marina Blumberg was researching the database and identified the Matisse painting, comparing it to a photo from the Fuld family collection.
The British charity is expected to sell the painting to raise funds for the Magen David Adom network of ambulances, paramedics and emergency treatment centers in Israel.
"It's rather a romantic story now that it's come home. And it will eventually benefit the people of Israel, which is what Harry Fuld wanted it to do," said Stuart Glyn, chairman of the charity.
Fuld died in 1963 and for reasons unknown willed his estate to Gisela Martin, about whom little is known. For reasons also unknown, she left her estate to the British charity when she died in 1992.
Matisse painted the landscape, showing a building behind a wall, in 1898 in Ajaccio, Corsica.
Just last month, it appeared in an exhibit at the Judaism Museum in Paris called: "Whom do These Paintings Belong to?"
Now, "Le Mur Rose" has found its answer.