A portrait of a child with her pet rabbit by Belgian artist, Antoine (Anto) Carte that was looted by the Nazis during the Belgian Occupation has been returned to its owner after the Art Loss Register
(ALR) located it in the hands of an art dealer from Long Island, USA. 'Jeune Fille a la Robe Bleue' (1932) was the centrepiece of a hand-over ceremony at the Jewish Museum of Belgium on 1 December 2009.
The Jewish child in the portrait fled Brussels with her family during the Nazi Occupation and survived the war hiding in the Belgian countryside. The family's abandoned apartment in Ohain was looted in 1944 and five oil paintings, including the Anto Carte portrait, disappeared. In 1946, the family filed a claim for their missing paintings at the Belgian office for looted art and the portrait was listed in theRépertoire d'oeuvres d'art dont la Belgique a été spoliée durant la guerre 1939-1945, a publication of Belgian war losses.
Decades later, the ALR recorded the Carto picture in its database of lost and stolen art and began to search for it in auction catalogues and on the internet.
In 2008, the Register traced what it believed to be the Carte portrait to a Long Island gallery owned by Andre Sakhai and contacted the Belgian Commission for Restitution Matters to verify the discovery. Although the missing Carte portait was not illustrated in the 'Répertoire d'oeuvres d'art dont la Belgique a été spoliée durant la guerre 1939-1945', a black and white photograph of a child was given to the ALR by the Belgian authorities and the similarity to the discovered portrait was unmistakeable.
The ALR's Executive Director and General Counsel in New York, Christopher A. Marinello, enlisted the help of Bonnie W. Goldblatt, senior special agent with the US Department of Homeland Security, Art & Antiquities Recovery Unit (ICE). Mr Sakhai was informed that the picture had been confiscated by the Nazis and that it was listed as an official war loss and he co-operated in forfeiting the painting.
This is not the first time that the ALR has successfully traced artworks with a Belgian wartime provenance. In 2006, a Picasso painting that went missing in Brussels following the detention of its Jewish owner in the concentration camp at Malines/Mechelen was the subject of a settlement negotiated by the ALR on behalf of the heirs of the original owner and a private US collector. Established in 1998, the ALR's looted art project has recorded thousands of missing paintings on behalf of Holocaust survivors and their heirs. Its dedicated team of art historians and lawyers offers dispute resolution and provenance research services to anyone who has been affected by the dispersal of artworks between 1933 and 1945.
The ALR is the world's largest private international database of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectibles providing recovery and search services to private individuals, collectors, the art trade, insurers and law enforcement through technology and professionally trained staff of art historians.
The ALR was formed in 1991 through a partnership between leading auction houses and art trade associations, the insurance industry and the International Foundation of Art Research. The ALR has been involved in the recovery of over 1,000 works of art worth with an estimated value of £100,000,000. With over 300,000 items on its database of lost and stolen art and antiques, it undertakes over 300,000 searches a year. The ALR is recognised as the leader in art recovery, due diligence and the resolution of title disputes.