Last sunday was reported that a total of 1500 modernist paintings has been discovered two years ago in Munich. "Is the biggest single find of Second World War stolen art, but still a tiny fraction of what we are looking for", as Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the London-based Art Loss Register, which runs an international database of stolen and missing works, said.
Investigators came upon the paintings during a 2011 search of an apartment belonging to the elderly son of art collector Hildebrand Gurlitt, who had acquired them during the 1930s and 1940s, according to press reports from weekly news Focus.
The search was carried on because his elder son, Cornellius Gurlitt, was caught by custom authorities in a train from Switzerland to Munich with a great amount of cash in 2011.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin had been aware of the case for "several months" and was assisting an investigation by public prosecutors with experts in Nazi-era stolen art. He said he was unaware of any restitution demands.
Hundreds of the modernist masterpieces are believed to have been stolen or buyed very cheap from Jewish collectors or seized as part of crackdowns on "degenerate art".The Entartete Kunst - Degenerate Art - exhibition was staged in Munich in 1937.
The collection uncovered included many of the masters of the 20th century, among them Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Otto Dix,Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Max Beckmann and Max Liebermann, but also from Tolouse Lautrec and Renoir.
Gurlitt's father, despite having Jewish origin, had become indispensable to officials in the Third Reich because of his art expertise and vast network of contacts. Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels put Gurlitt in charge of selling the art abroad. However Gurlitt apparently secretly hoarded many of the works, and claimed after the war that the masterpieces were destroyed in the bombing of Dresden. His son, a recluse without a job, had sold a few over the years, living off the proceeds, Focus said. For the moment he is only facing possible tax evasion charges. The works are now stored in a customs warehouse outside Munich.