A $20 Million Nazi-Looted Kandinsky Has Been Returned to Rightful Owner’s Heirs

'Bild mit Häusern (Painting with Houses)' was sold under duress at the height of World War II.

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Paulo Amorim/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After a protracted saga involving the mayor of Amsterdam, new reports indicate that the Wassily Kandinsky painting Bild mit Häusern (Painting with Houses) will be returned to the heirs of its rightful owners. During the height of World War II, married couple Robert Lewenstein and Irma Klein were left with no choice to sell the contents of their robust art collection—which included work by masters such as Kandinsky, Renoir and Rembrandt—to the Nazis after the German military force invaded the Netherlands. Last year, a committee in Amsterdam was debating whether the painting belonged in the Stedelijk Museum or in the possession of Lewenstein’s descendants, and Amsterdam’s mayor weighed in on the family’s behalf.

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“Returning this artwork will mean a lot to the victims and is important for acknowledging the injustice perpetrated,” Femke Halsema, Amsterdam’s mayor, wrote in a statement last February. The dispute over the painting, which is purported to be worth over $20 million, has been ongoing for nine years and was brought to a halt on Monday when the artwork was transferred to Lewenstein’s heirs.

“The municipality and the heirs agree that the restitution does justice to the principle of returning works of art that were involuntarily removed from possession during the Second World War due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime to heirs of the then owners where possible,” the Stedelijk Museum said in a statement.

“As a city, we bear a great responsibility for dealing with the indescribable suffering and injustice inflicted on the Jewish population in the Second World War,” Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Touria Meliani added. “To the extent that anything can be restored, we as a society have a moral duty to act accordingly. This certainly applies to the many works of art that were in the possession of Jewish citizens and were looted by Nazis or were otherwise lost to the owners.”

A $20 Million Nazi-Looted Kandinsky Has Been Returned to Rightful Owner’s Heirs