FBI Returns Monet Painting Nazis Stole During WWII to Descendants of Previous Owners

By: Beth Moreton | Published: May 16, 2024

A Monet painting that was stolen by the Nazis during WWII has recently been recovered by the FBI.

However, they are currently trying to determine the rightful owners of the painting. These could either be the people who recently purchased it or the descendants of the people who owned it before it was stolen by the Nazis. 

Monet’s Bord de Mer Was Stolen by the Nazis

Monet’s Bord de Mer is a small pastel drawing that was stolen by the Nazis during WWII.

Bord de Mer painting by Monet. The painting shows clouds in the sky, waves in the sea, the sand on the beach and clifftops.

Source: @Inmediopugna/X

It was created around 1865 and depicts a scene from a beach, showing the sea, sand and rocks on the beach.

Bord de Mer Was Sold in 2019

Bord de Mer was last sold in 2019 by an antiquities dealer, M.S. Rau, to Bridget Vita and her now-deceased husband Kevin Schlamp.

Bord de Mer painting by Monet. There are the waves in the sea and clifftops.

Source: @velocevolo/X

The FBI’s research led them to the painting they seized in June 2023. 

Bord de Mer Belonged to Adalbert and Hilda Parlagi

Bord de Mer initially belonged to Adalbert and Hilda Parlagi, who acquired the painting in 1936.

A view of Vienna in the evening. A cathedral is in the distance, with its tower above the rest of the city.

Source: Jacek Dylag/Unsplash

The couple initially lived in Vienna, Austria, until Germany annexed the country in 1938. At that point, they fled to London but kept the Monet painting in storage in Vienna. 

Nazis Seized the Monet Painting in 1940

Very early on in WWII, Nazis stole the Monet painting from the Parlagi’s storage unit in Vienna. 

Nazi Germany in WWII. Nazi soldiers are in the image, including Adolf Hitler.

Source: Unknown Author/Wikimedia Commons

The Nazis then trafficked the painting, and it became untraceable over the years, up until the FBI was finally able to track it down. 

Bord de Mer Has Been in Exhibitions

Bord de Mer has been hiding in plain sight up until now, as it has been featured in several Monet and art exhibitions.

An art exhibition with various paintings and drawings on display.

Source: YessMendez/Wikimedia Commons

It was on exhibition in Ornans, France, in 2016 and was on loan from Galerie Helene Bailly, who then sold it to Rau.


The Nazis Stole Many Art Pieces During WWII

Monet’s Bord de Mer wasn’t the only piece of art stolen by the Nazis in WWII.

An image of the Nazi army, with Adolf Hitler leading them.

Source: Unknown Author/Wikimedia Commons

It is believed that between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis stole around 20% of all European art pieces. 


Nazis Stole Monet’s Waterlillies

Another Monet art piece that was stolen by Nazis was the Waterlillies painting from 1904. 

Monet’s Waterlillies painting. The painting is of a pond with waterlilies in it.

Source: M. O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons

This was initially meant to be part of an art exhibition. However, it was withdrawn due to fears that the family who originally owned it would want it back. 


A $30 Million Monet Painting Has Nazi Links

Many Monet paintings seem to have Nazi links, as one worth $30 million was in a similar dispute to his Bord de Mer painting.

Monet’s Le Palais Ducal painting. The painting is of some buildings along a river.

Source: Claude Monet/Wikimedia Commons

The painting in question is Le Palais Ducal, painted in 1908. It was initially on the market, but it had to be removed when questions were raised about its Nazi-era sales history. 


A Lawsuit Has Been Filed for the Monet Painting

When the FBI was able to locate the Monet painting, it filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana. 

A black gavel lying on a black surface.

Source: sergeitokmakov/Pixabay

This is because there are some implications regarding who should be the rightful owner of the Monet painting. 


The Parlagi’s Heirs Could Be the Rightful Owners

As the Monet painting was stolen from the Parlagi’s, it is difficult to ascertain who the rightful owners are. 

A black and white image of Claude Monet. He has a long beard and mustache.

Source: Nadar/Wikimedia Commons

The rightful owners could be the Parlagi’s descendants, Françoise Parlagi and Helen Lowe, which is why the lawsuit has been filed.


The Court Is Yet to Make a Decision on the Monet Painting

It is currently a waiting game, as the court has yet to decide the legitimate owners of the Monet painting.

A wooden gavel against a wooden block.

Source: Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash

Only once the court makes its decision will it be known who the rightful owner of the Monet painting is. 


Other Art Recovery Cases

Art recovery has a surprisngly rich history, providing numerous lessons through various high-profile cases.

A museum with paintings and art on pillars around the room, behind glass walls.

Source: Artur Matosyan/Unsplash

By examining these instances, we can better understand the methods and challenges involved in the restitution of stolen artworks.


Gustav Klimt’s Portrait Recovery

The story of Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” exemplifies complex art restitution.

Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I"

Source: Gustav Klimt/Wikipedia

Stolen by the Nazis, its return involved a landmark legal case that concluded in 2006, restoring the painting to the rightful heirs.


Picasso’s Stolen Artworks

Picasso’s “La Coiffeuse” was stolen from a Parisian storage room in 2001 and mysteriously resurfaced in a U.S. shipment labeled as a Christmas craft worth $37.

Portrait photograph of Pablo Picasso, 1908

Source: Anonymous/Wikipedia

The recovery by U.S. Customs in 2015 underscores the importance of international cooperation and vigilance in tracking and recovering lost art, reflecting the ongoing challenges of art security globally.


The Return of the Benin Bronzes

The Benin Bronzes, looted during a British military expedition in 1897, have become symbols of cultural repatriation.

A Benin Bronze plaque on display in the British Museum

Source: Michel wal/Wikipedia

Recent efforts have seen several pieces returned to Nigeria, illustrating the growing global commitment to correcting historical wrongs.


The Recovery of Rembrandt’s Works

While some of Rembrandt’s stolen pieces have been recovered, “Storm on the Sea of Galilee” remains missing since the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Rembrandt van Rijn - Self-Portrait - Google Art Project

Source: Rembrandt/Wikipedia

The ongoing search highlights the enduring challenges in art recovery, emphasizing the need for advanced security measures and public awareness to prevent future thefts.


Restitution of Nazi-Looted Books

The restitution of books and manuscripts looted by the Nazis, such as the return of a precious collection to the Jewish Community of Berlin, highlights another aspect of stolen cultural heritage.

Some old, brown, wooden bookshelves that have old books covering every shelf.

Source: Roman Kraft/Unsplash

These recoveries, often less publicized than those of fine art, involve intricate research and the unraveling of complex historical ownership records. They emphasize the broad scope of Nazi plunder and the enduring effort to make things right.


The Recovery of Vermeer's "The Concert"

“The Concert” by Johannes Vermeer, stolen in the same heist as Rembrandt’s work, is yet another unresolved art theft.

Vermeer The concert painting

Source: Vermeer/Wikipedia

Despite extensive efforts and a hefty reward, its whereabouts remain unknown.


Technological Aids in Art Recovery

Advancements in technology are helping in the recovery of stolen art.

A scientist at the Cape Eleuthera Institute uses a microscope, computer, and imaging software while analyzing the Booralana nickorum.

Source: BREEF/Facebook

Digital imaging, databases, and forensic techniques have become invaluable tools for identifying and authenticating artworks.


Impact on Art Market Dynamics

High-profile recoveries significantly impact the art market, influencing buyer confidence and the practices of dealers and auction houses.

An auctioneer stands at a podium in front of a crowd of auction-goers. A helmet is on display next to the auctioneer’s podium.

Portable Antiquities Scheme/Wikimedia Commons

Issues of provenance and authenticity can affect market values dramatically, leading to more rigorous scrutiny of artwork histories before transactions.


Public Exhibition and Education

Public exhibitions focusing on recovered art play a big role in educating about art theft and restitution.

UQ Geology Museum Display Cabinets with blue and red carpet

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These exhibitions highlight the historical contexts of the artworks and the efforts made for their recovery, promoting a deeper public understanding of cultural heritage and the importance of its preservation.


Future of Restitution Efforts

As the field of art restitution evolves, it faces new challenges like digital reproduction and the fading of historical archives.

A group of researchers are pictured looking at data on a computer screen

Source: Wikimedia

The future will likely see enhanced international collaborations and more robust legal frameworks to improve the recovery rates of stolen artworks and ensure their return to their rightful owners.


Picturesque Recovery

Art theft is a global issue that requires collaborative and proactive efforts from all parties involved, including governments, law enforcement agencies, art institutions, and the public.


Source: Daily Mail

Technological advancements, education initiatives, and improved legal frameworks are crucial in ensuring the successful recovery and return of stolen artworks.