(JTA) — A Nazi-looted painting that was returned to its owners last month from the collection of the late art collector Cornelius Gurlitt was sold at auction.
Max Liebermann’s “Two Riders on the Beach” was among the most valuable of the more than 1,400 artworks discovered in Gurlitt’s home in Munich and later in a second home in Salzburg, Austria. The painting was stolen from David Friedmann, a German-Jewish collector who died in the early 1940s.
It sold at Sotheby’s in London on Wednesday for $2.92 million, more than three times the pre-sale estimates, the French news agency AFP reported.
It is the first piece of artwork from the Gurlitt collection to be sold, and only one of the first two to be returned to the heirs of its previous owners.
Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, was an art dealer on assignment to the Nazis. When Hildebrand Gurlitt died in 1956, his son inherited the collection, which includes works by Picasso, Durer, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Beckmann and Matisse. The Gurlitt collection, discovered in the course of an investigation for tax evasion, is worth an estimated $1.26 billion.
Last year, Gurlitt signed an agreement with the state of Bavaria and the German federal government in which the provenance of all works would be researched, paving the way for the return of the paintings to the heirs of the rightful owners. The work of the task force searching for possible rightful owners continued after Gurlitt died last May.
Gurlitt left his entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland. The museum accepted the collection and promised to participate in the process by which German authorities would attempt to return any looted works to their rightful owners.