The Murillo Paintings at the Meadows Museum, SMU
The Monuments Men Foundation shed light on the wartime past of two paintings on display at SMU’s Meadows Museum created by Spanish master Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1618-1682) of Seville’s Patron Saints Justa and Rufina, estimated to be worth more than $10 million. The two paintings, both properly restituted to the rightful owners prior to donation to the Meadows Museum, show evidence of having been part of the ERR systematic looting of art from Jewish owners.
Discovery and Research
While conducting research on his first book, Rescuing da Vinci, our founder Robert Edsel discovered two archival photos which included images of these two paintings by Murillo. Mr. Edsel wondered how it was possible that two paintings he knew to be at the Meadows Museum could have had a Nazi provenance when there was no mention of it in the Meadows’ records.
Meadows Museum officials readily made the paintings available for examination.
Monuments officer Lt. James J. Rorimer, was the person who actually located one of the two stolen Murillo paintings, Saint Justa. Rorimer found the painting by Murillo, along with 157 other stolen works, at a Nazi restoration studio in Buxheim, Germany: “There are few museums in the world that could boast a collection such as the one we found here." Rorimer wrote in reaction to the discovery at the time, "Works of art could no longer be thought of in ordinary terms—-a roomful, a car load, a castle full, were the quantities we had to reckon with.”
The painting of Saint Rufina was instead found along with thousands of other priceless works of art by Monuments Men Robert Posey, Lincoln Kirstein, and George Stout at a salt mine in Altaussee, Austria that stored many of the works of art destined for Hitler’s planned “Führermuseum”.
The Nazi ERR code evidencing Rothschild ownership was visible on the stretcher of Saint Justa (R 1171), while it appeared that it had been rubbed off the same position on the stretcher of Saint Rufina (R1170).
In keeping with the Mission Statement of the Monuments Men Foundation, Mr. Edsel also brought to the attention of University officials the importance of observing the AAM/ AAMD and Washington Principle guidelines governing the identification of works of art stolen by the Nazis, particularly those concerning the need to research the provenance of works of art that could have been subject to Nazi looting, and then publishing those research results. He urged them, and other University officials, to make a joint announcement about these findings to serve as a source of encouragement for all museums to comply with these important guidelines.
The Meadows Museum’s update to its website now makes a definitive statement in support of those guidelines.
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Our team receives leads of works of art on a daily basis and is committed to researching each one of them. Research can be very time-consuming and expensive. Financial support can contribute to adding professionals to our experienced team as well as off-set the costs involved with restitutions.