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Rescued by the Monuments Men, Old Masters paintings sell at auction

Part of Apollonio di Giovanni’s Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus. The 15th-century painting, once stolen by the Nazis, was estimated to sell for between $150,000 and $200,000 at a Sotheby’s auction this week, but instead fetched $701,000.

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George Clooney didn't actually show up at Sotheby's sales room in New York this week, but his debonair presence floated over the auction of Old Masters anyway. That's because The Monuments Men, his new film opening next Friday, tells the thrilling story of the small squad of art experts who spent the final months of the Second World War risking their lives to rescue thousands of art works and antiquities nabbed by the Nazis. On Thursday, four paintings rescued by the real-life Monuments Men sold at auction – most above their estimated prices. (All figures in U.S. dollars.)

Apollonio di Giovanni

Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus, a Cassone Panel

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Tempera and gold leaf on panel

Sold for $701,000 (est. $150,000 to $200,000)This 15th-century work was confiscated from the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild's Château de Ferrières by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the notorious Nazi Party agency charged with plundering cultural treasures, which marked the back of the painting with "BoR 58" to indicate its provenance. It was discovered at the Buxheim Monastery in Bavaria and returned to the Rothschild family in 1946-47.

Jean-Baptiste Pater

La Cueillette des Roses and Le Musicien

A pair, both oil on panel

Sold for $581,000 (est. $300,000 to $500,000)Acquired by Baron James Mayer de Rothschild in the 19th century, these 18th-century paintings were confiscated by the ERR and moved to the Jeu de Paume depot in Paris on Nov. 5, 1940, then taken by Hermann Goering for his personal collection. The Monuments Men rescued the pieces from Berchtesgaden and sent them to the Munich Central Collecting Point on Aug. 6, 1945. Later that year, they were returned to the Rothschilds.

Francesco Guardi

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Venice, A View of the Piazzetta Looking Towards San Giorgio Maggiore

Oil on canvas

Sold for $233,000 (est. $200,000 to $300,000)Acquired in 1912 by the French banker André Louis-Hirsch, this 18th-century painting was taken from him on Oct. 16, 1941 by the ERR, which wrote "Hirsch 8" on the back. The Monuments Men recovered the piece and sent it to the Munich Central Collecting Point on June 25, 1945. Hirsch reclaimed the piece after May 23, 1946.

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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