MUNICH, Germany, May 16 (UPI) -- In an apartment filled with 1,200 pieces of art collectively valued at over $1 billion, a particularly famous heirloom stolen by the Nazis was rediscovered.
On Friday, Henri Matisse's "Femme Assise," or "Seated Woman," was returned to its rightful owners -- the descendants of Paul Rosenberg -- after being missing nearly 75 years.
Following a two-year investigation beginning in 2010, German officials uncovered a trove of art in collector Cornelius Gurlitt's Munich apartment. The man's father was reportedly an art dealer who helped the Nazis trade pieces they stole from Jewish families for those more suited to their taste.
In order to confirm the piece was indeed part of Rosenberg's collection, Elaine Rosenberg and Christopher Marinello, a lawyer specializing in stolen art and CEO of the Art Recovery Group, had to rough it through the remaining red tape that is German bureaucracy. The New York Times says Marinello had to file through over 250,000 documents, letters and photographs in his client's family records in order to track down proof the painting was indeed hers.
"The Germans are sticklers for detail and accuracy, which is good and important in provenance research, but following the process can be very frustrating to people like my clients, who are humans who suffered at the hands of one of the worst regimes in history," Marinello said.
Rosenberg's granddaughter, author Anne Sinclair (My Grandfather's Gallery), told NPR, "First I feel deeply moved, of course, by the idea that this painting is back in the family 74 years after being looted, and deeply melancholic thinking that my grandfather is not able to see that."
Paul Rosenberg died in 1959, but not before recovering over 400 works from his original collection. Sinclair says there are still 60 pieces unaccounted for; it isn't yet clear if they, too, have been discovered in the Munich apartment.