A valuable piece of modern art is finally being returned to the heirs of an art dealer who fled the Nazis.
The artwork, Matisse’s Seated Woman, was eventually intercepted by German authorities in 2010 after they stopped an elderly man, Cornelius Gurlitt, on a train from Zurich to Munich for carrying a large amount of money on him, NPR reports. They then inspected his apartment, where they found more than 1,000 works by artists including Chagall, Degas and Renoir, worth an estimated $1 billion.
The pieces had been stashed in the apartment because Gurlitt’s father, an art dealer named Hildebrand Gurlitt, had helped broker deals between Nazis who traded modern art—works Nazis derisively called “degenerate art.”
One painting in particular, Matisse’s Seated Woman, was among the billion-dollar art cache. The owner, Paul Rosenberg, had been an art dealer and friend of the artist, but in 1940, he fled the Nazis and many of his pieces were pillaged. Rosenberg devoted years to trying to find 400 works stolen by the Nazis before he died in 1959. There are still about 60 works missing from Rosenberg’s collection, his granddaughter told NPR.
“There is nothing I have loved more in my life than my pictures,” the younger Gurlitt once told the German news magazine Der Spiegel.Gurlitt died in 2014 in his Munich apartment.