Courbet's "Femme Nue Couchée" Returned

The story of Gustave Courbet’s long-lost painting “Femme nue couchée” (Nude Woman Reclining) is a rare instance of litigation-free restitution. Formerly in the collection of the Hungarian Jewish collector Baron Ferenc Hatvany, the painting was stolen from a bank vault during World War II; it resurfaced in Slovakia in the early 2000s when it was offered to an auction house. The story offered by the seller involved a wounded Russian soldier who took the painting from Hungary to Slovakia, where he presented it to a Bratislava doctor in exchange for medical assistance; that doctor’s family tried to auction the painting fifty years later. Given that “Femme nue couchée” was listed on the Art Loss Register, no auction house would agree to sell it. After four years of negotiations, facilitated by the Commission for Art Recovery, the painting was finally returned to the Baron’s heirs in 2005. In 2007, a retrospective of the French 19th-century Realist painter Gustave Courbet held at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York proudly displayed “Femme nue couchée” for the first time since its recovery. Unfortunately, many other works of art from the Hatvany collection remain lost or sequestered in international museums and private collections.

Femme nue couchée

Gustave Courbet, Femme nue couchée
1862Recovered

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