Warsaw cops swoop on auction house to save looted WWII painting
A painting looted during WWII has been recovered after police swooped on an auction house in Warsaw, just moments before it was to be sold.
Plundered by the Nazis at the end of WWII, the painting by Art Nouveau artist Edward Okuń is said to be worth over a million PLN.
Police spokesman Robert Szumiata said that if it had not been for the police intervention the painting would have disappeared.
He said: "Police from the central (Warsaw) investigative department, on the basis of a decision issued by the Central Warsaw Regional Prosecutor, entered an auction house in the capital.
"It was there that a painting was to be bid for, which at the end of World war II was looted from an art gallery by Hitler's forces."
He added that the real name of the painting was Donzella, saying: "However the picture's owner called it 'Florentynka' in his lawsuit due to the fact that the woman depicted was of Italian descent, from Florence.
"A few days ago, it was sent to an auction house at which it was to be bid for."
Painted in 1910, the masterpiece shows Okuń’s wife Zofia Okuniowa as Compiuta Donzella, an Italian Renaissance poet who lived in Tuscany in the 13th century.
It was twice exhibited twice at the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in 1911 and in 1931 after being bought by Andrzej Rotwand, a collector from Warsaw who then donated it to the Zachęta collection.
The artwork has now been secured by staff of the National Museum in Warsaw.
Szumiata said: "It was taken there under police escort, where it will be stored in the appropriate conditions and deposited until the end of the investigation.”
He added that investigations were now underway to establish how the person who sent it to auction had come into its possession.