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European cooperation: “Vaso di Fiori” returned to the Uffizi Gallery Italy

View of the Arno river

View of the Arno river, © Revierfoto/dpa

19.07.2019 - Article

Stolen by the National Socialists during the Second World War, Jan van Huysum’s painting “Vaso di Fiori” is now being returned to Italy. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is bringing it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence today.

Looted art from the Second World War

Currently, only a black and white placeholder hangs in the Uffizi at the spot which the Tuscan Grand Duke Leopold II of Lorraine intended for the painting almost two hundred years ago. Evidence indicates that “Vaso di Fiori”, or “vase of flowers”, was stolen by soldiers of the German Wehrmacht from a storage room of Palazzo Pitti, part of the famous museum in Florence, and brought to Germany in 1944, where it was in private ownership until recently. 

“Vaso di Fiori” is one of the most important works by the Dutch painter Jan van Huysum (1682‑1749), whose oeuvre was inspired by landscapes, flowers and fruits. In 1824, it was purchased by Leopold of Habsburg‑Lorraine and his wife Maria Anna of Saxony. Similar pictures by the artist, who was well known and held in high regard in the 18th and 19th centuries, hang in renowned museums around the world.

Maas and Moavero to hand over the painting

The Uffizi Gallery has called for the oil painting to be returned for many years. The Federal Foreign Office has made repeated attempts, together with the Italian authorities and the Uffizi Gallery, to find a way to make the return possible. Now that the last remaining legal questions have been clarified, the day has finally arrived. Foreign Minister Maas is travelling to Florence today to hand over the painting to Palazzo Pitti together with his Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero.

The case of the “Vaso di Fiori” painting shows that looted art remains an important issue 70 years after the end of the Second World War. It also shows that only through close European cooperation can gaps such as these be closed. It has been possible to arrange the return of the oil painting thanks to the close links between the German and Italian foreign ministries.

European cooperation today: displacement and migration

This European cooperation in a spirit of trust is also needed for the challenges of the present. It is with this in mind that Maas is scheduled to meet his counterpart for discussions prior to handing over the painting. The focus here will be on displacement and migration, in particular sea rescues and the Europe‑wide distribution of refugees.

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