"Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin", painted in 1919 in the last year of the life of the French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, finally returns to be in the hands of the granddaughter of the Jewish owner who spent decades trying to recover it.
Sylvie Sulitzer, the last heir of her grandfather Alfred Weinberger, a prominent art collector in Paris before the war, received the work of US authorities during a ceremony at the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York.
Although Sulitzer knew his grandfather, he had no idea about Renoir's absence until a German law firm, specialist in recovering art looted by the Nazis from Jewish families, contacted her in the early 2010s .
"I am very grateful to be able to show my beloved family wherever they are, that after everything they have gone through, there is justice," Sulitzer said.
Four other Renoirs and one Delacroix, who also owned his grandfather, have not yet recovered, he told AFP.
The Nazis stole art in December 1941 from the bank vault where Weinberger stored his collection when he fled Paris at the start of World War II.
After peace returned to Europe, Weinberger spent decades trying to recover his property, registering his claim with the French authorities in 1947 and with the Germans in 1958.
US officials said the Renoir resurfaced for the first time at an art sale in Johannesburg in 1975, before it reached London, where it was sold again in 1977. It went on sale again in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1999.
But it was only when it was auctioned off by a private collector at Christie & # 39; s in New York that the auction house called the FBI. His previous "owner" finally agreed to renounce the image.
It is believed that up to 100,000 works of art and millions of books were stolen from French Jews or Jews who had fled to France before the Nazi occupation began in 1940.
The Allies found about 60,000 of the works of art that disappeared after the war in Germany and returned them to France.
Two thirds were returned to their original owners in 1950, according to a French government report seen by AFP earlier this year that criticized the inefficiency of the French authorities to return the rest.