The 1509 oil-on-canvas painting, "Portrait of a Young Man," by Hans Baldung Grien, was part of a famous art collection belonging to Friedrich and Louise Gutmann, German-Jewish bankers living in Holland, the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reported Wednesday.
The Gutmanns handed their collection over to the Nazis in 1941, but mysteriously, the 18-by-13-inch Grien never reached Hitler. The Gutmanns gave it in exchange for the promise of safe passage to Italy -- a promise never kept, as the couple was transported in 1943 to the Theresienstadt concentration camp where Friedrich died, and Louise was taken to the Auschwitz death camp where she was murdered, the newspaper reported.
The painting apparently passed through several owners after the Nazis stole it, and it was donated to Rutgers University's Zimmerli Art Museum in 1959, the Star-Ledger said.
The Gutmanns' grandson, Simon Goodman, had searched in vain for his grandparents' artworks since 1994 when Goodman's father died. He was presented with the painting at the Zimmerli last week, after the museum found and confirmed that he, another grandson, Nicholas, and the Gutmanns' daughter Lili, who is 91 and living in Florence, Italy, are the owners, the newspaper said.
"They decided as a tribute to their father, they would go and really try to find the pictures, they would carry on his quest," said Zimmerli Director Suzanne Delehanty.
"It was really touching, to have this painting given back to them. There was a lot of joy. I think we all felt ... in a small way, we can do something to heal that horrible mark," Delehanty said.
Goodman plans to put the painting up for auction this month. It should fetch between $200,000 and $300,000, the Star-Ledger said.