How £846m of looted Nazi art was found in 'shabby' flat
German authorities believe Munich pensioner Cornelius Gurlitt was selling masterpieces 'one-by-one'
A MASSIVE trove of 1,500 artworks looted by the Nazis has been discovered at the home of an 80-year-old man in Munich, the German news magazine Focus reports.
The vast collection, estimated to be worth about £846 million, includes works by masters such as Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. Some of the pieces were declared "degenerate" by the Nazis while others were stolen from Jewish art collectors or bought forcibly "for a pittance".
The BBC says it is one of the largest recoveries of looted art in history.
The works were discovered at the Munich home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the "reclusive son" of art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt. Hildebrandt was in charge of gathering so-called "degenerate" art for the Nazis in the run-up to WWII.
Authorities became suspicious of Cornelius when a routine customs check on a train travelling from Zurich to Munich found he was carrying an envelope containing 9,000 euros. Because the pensioner had no visible form of income, an investigation was launched.
When authorities raided his small, rented apartment in Munich they made an extraordinary discovery: thousands of sketches, oil paintings, charcoals, lithographs and watercolours hidden behind "tins of noodles, fruit and beans", says the Daily Mail. It is believed that Cornelius had been "quietly" selling the works, one at a time, to "give him money to live on".
Investigators have not released the names of the works that have been recovered, the paper says. But one of them is known to be The Lion Tamer, by German artist Max Beckmann. Cornelius offloaded it to a collector for almost £750,000 before his collection was seized.
Other works discovered in the "shabby" flat in the Munich suburb of Schwabing are pieces by artists such as Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Otto Dix, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Liebermann.
Art historian Gwendolen Webster told The Guardian the significance of the find was "absolutely staggering for historians". But in legal terms it opens can of worms, she said, because German authorities can "expect a huge number of claims for restitution from around the world, with all the diplomatic difficulties that entails". ·