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 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).