A portrait by Belgian painter Anto Carte has been returned to its rightful owner 67 years after being stolen. The owner has vivid memories of the painting.
The G. family fled Brussels during the Second World War for fear of persecution by the Nazi occupiers. The father of the family, Paul G., found shelter with his wife and two young children in the Walloon Brabant countryside.
The stately Brussels mansion where the young family lived until right before the war was reluctantly left behind, as was the valuable art collection.
Four years of anguish
The G. family lived in hiding for almost four years and their only hope was to survive the war.
In September 1944, Brussels was finally liberated by the Allies. The G. family was lucky and was able to witness the liberation by the British 2nd Army.
But they did not feel like celebrating on Liberation Day. It turned out that their house in Brussels had been completely looted during the war years.
Paul G. therefore made a point of reporting the loss of the family art objects to the Department for Economic Recovery (DER).
At the time, The DER declaration forms provided a clear picture of exactly what had been looted and what steps were subsequently taken to recover the art that had disappeared. The search continued until the mid-1960s. All the DER's efforts to find something remained vain.
Many decades later, in 2009, the FPS Economy was informed by the Art Loss Register that one of the G. family's stolen paintings was in the possession of a New York gallery owner. The painting represented the portrait, lovingly painted by the Belgian painter Anto Carte, of the family’s youngest daughter Claire. She was barely four years old when the painter used her as a model for this romantic painting.
On the basis of the preserved declaration form at the DER, the FPS Economy, along with American government officials, was able to identify and secure the portrait.
The “Cell for the Recovery of Looted Goods during the Second World War in Belgium” at the FPS Economy also found Claire G. Despite her advanced age (80), she retains vivid memories of her portrait. For her, the canvas is a symbol of the suffering her family endured. 67 years after the Second World War, she finally saw it again.
In early December 2009, the portrait was returned to Claire G. by US American Ambassador Howard W. Gutman, and the former Minister of Economics, Vincent Van Quickenborne.