Hundreds of artwork missing since WWII recovered in police swoop
Over 400 works of art that were thought to have been lost have now been returned to a museum in Bydgoszcz.
The artwork which went missing from the Municipal Museum in Bydgoszcz during and shortly after World War II included paintings and graphic works from Leon Wyczółkowski, one of the leading representatives of realistic painting of the Young Poland period, as well as furniture and library collections.
The works were recovered following two separate investigations by the Criminal Division of the Provincial Police Headquarters in Bydgoszcz and the District Prosecutor's Office in Bydgoszcz.
Prosecutor spokeswoman Violetta Głowacka said: “The importance of the event is evidenced by the fact that some of the works recovered by law enforcement agencies were identified as war losses listed in the catalogue of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
“Other historic and valuable museum items were also recovered. These items had been considered lost by the Municipal Museum in Bydgoszcz during and shortly after World War II."
In 1943, the then Mayor of Bydgoszcz Walther Ernst issued an order for immediate decentralization of the museum’s collections and between June that year and December 1944 the museum sent work off to various mansions for safe keeping.
The museum director Konrad Kothe stamped all of the packages with the museum's seal so they would be easily recognisable, but few were returned after the war.
Leon Wyczółkowski who had two exhibitions at the Bydgoszcz museum in his lifetime donated his collection of works to the museum in his will. His wife, Franciszka, passed along the 410 paintings and 15 sketchbooks with 496 drawings, as well as 36 works by other artists in 1937.
The recovered Wyczółkowski works include ‘Peonies’, ‘Blooming Cherries’, ‘Christ of Queen Jadwiga’, ‘Still life’ painting and several pencil drawings among others.
Works by other artists that were recovered included Stanisław Ostoja–Chrostowski’s ‘Escape to Egypt’ and Jerzy Rupniewski’s ‘View of Wawel’.
A variety of furniture which had been owned by Wyczółkowski was also recovered.
The works have now been returned to the Leon Wyczółkowski Museum in Bydgoszcz and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Two people remain under investigation by the authorities regarding the recovered items and prosecutions are moving forward according the Prosecutor's Office in Bydgoszcz.