It isn’t unusual for valuable paintings to go missing for decades before resurfacing in a completely different part of the world. A recent example is “Landscape of Italian Character”, an 18th-century painting done by Austrian painter Johann Franz Nepomuk Lauterer, which went missing in Germany during World War II before being recently found in the United States.
“Landscape of Italian Character” was part of the exhibition in one museum in Munich, Germany, until the start of WWII in 1939. It was initially believed that the painting was put in a secure location alongside the rest of the collection, but it was later discovered that the painting was nowhere to be found. Bavarian State Painting Collections, which oversees artwork in the German region of Bavaria, searched for the painting since the 1960s but found no success.
The painting ended up briefly resurfacing in 2011 when an individual tried to sell it on an art market in the U.S. However, the sale was unsuccessful, causing the artwork to disappear once again.
A decade later, an individual contacted Art Recovery International, a company that specializes in the recovery of stolen artworks, and offered some information on “Landscape of Italian Character.” It turned out their uncle, who served in World War II, brought the painting to the United States when he returned home.
Art Recovery International representatives worked alongside German art experts to identify and track down the painting afterward. The individual who possessed the painting wanted to receive payment but ended up handing it over free of charge when confronted by the FBI’s Art Crime Team.
“Landscape of Italian Character” has been recently handed over to Germany during a ceremony at a Chicago consulate and will be displayed in Munich’s Alte Pinakothek after cleaning and restoration work on it is completed.