photo - PAP
Sixty-five years ago the painting, which was completed in 1510, was substituted with a counterfeit and transported to Germany.
The work made its way back to its original location in the southwestern city of Wrocław on Friday.
After months of the Foreign Ministry’s efforts to convince Switzerland to return the 16th-century masterpiece to the city, Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski officially handed over the work to St. John’s Cathedral, where the painting had been kept for four centuries up until 1943.
“We pass on to the church authorities the most treasured recovered artifact in the history of free Poland since 1990,” Minister Sikorski said.
During WW II, the painting was hidden away by Germans, who sought to protect it from the threat of military operations, when Wrocław, then known as Breslau, was still part of German territory.
After the war the painting was returned to the cathedral broken in two, and was to be repaired by German priest Siegfried Zimmer, who carried the original to Berlin, leaving behind a copy. The authenticity of the forged work was questioned in 1961 by a Polish conservator.
For years, the painting remained in the hands of a Swiss collector, and handed over to a diocese in Sankt Gallen after his death.
The story of Cranach’s work has now come full circle returning to the cathedral, now on Polish territory, as the city alongside most of Silesia, was transferred to Poland after World War II.
In line with international law, any stolen artefacts should return to their original location, regardless whether any political shifts had taken place in the meantime, said the foreign minister’s plenipotentiary for the restitution of cultural goods, Professor Wojciech Kowalski.
Renaissance painter and print artist Lucas Cranach the Elder is the author of over 400 works, mostly of religious character. Some of his greatest works include The Głogów Madonna, The Crucifixion, and Rest on the Flight into Egypt. (aba/pg)
source: PAP, Gazeta Wyborcza