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Two stolen artworks, including a 19th-century Dutch painting by Godfried Schalcken, have been successfully recovered and returned to Polish museums as part of ongoing restitution efforts.
Poland continues to reclaim its cultural heritage as two stolen artworks have been returned to their rightful places in Polish museums. The recovered pieces, “Portrait of an Elderly Gentleman in a Wig with a Cane” by 19th-century Dutch painter Godfried Schalcken and “Seascape” from the school of Joseph Claude Vernet, were returned thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (MKiDN).
“Portrait of an Elderly Gentleman in a Wig with a Cane” was likely stolen by Germans during or after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. It resurfaced at an auction in Germany in November of the previous year and was identified as a Polish war loss, leading to its unconditional return to Poland.
“Seascape,” originally from the Lublin Museum, was identified in Monaco as another Polish war loss. The painting, from the 18th century, was voluntarily returned to Poland, marking the first instance of restitution actions taken in Monaco.
Poland’s cultural losses during World War II remain a significant issue, with thousands of empty frames in its museums. The country’s ongoing efforts to recover lost artworks include legal actions, negotiations, and the “Empty Frames” campaign, which aims to raise awareness about these losses.
While progress has been made in some cases, challenges persist, especially concerning restitution from countries like Germany and Russia. Germany’s legislative framework has hindered restitution efforts, and Russia has yet to respond to about 20 restitution requests.
Despite these challenges, Poland remains committed to its cultural restitution efforts, with over 150 ongoing cases in 15 countries worldwide. The Ministry of Culture also conducts research to identify the origins of lost artworks, increasing the database of known losses.
Poland’s determination to recover its lost cultural heritage is a testament to its commitment to preserving its artistic legacy and acknowledging the importance of cultural restitution on a global scale.