A valuable painting looted from a Polish aristocrat in 1940 by Nazi Germany has been discovered in Japan and returned to Poland, according to the Polish Embassy in Japan and a Tokyo-based art auction company.
While it is not clear how the painting, called "Madonna with Child" by Italian Baroque-Era painter Alessandro Turchi, came to be in possession of its former Japanese owner, the artwork was handed into the Polish Embassy in Tokyo in late May at no cost to Poland.
It is the first time that a work of art taken from Poland during the Nazi occupation has been discovered in the Far East, according to the embassy.
The painting had been missing since the 1990s after it was put up for auction in New York, according to Poland's Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Mainichi Auction Inc. in Tokyo said it received a request from the painting's former owner to sell it at an auction in the fall of 2021 and posted a photograph of it on their website, valuing the artwork at around 3 million yen ($21,000).
The company was contacted by the Polish ministry before the auction, which was scheduled for late January 2022.
Polish authorities had initially said some of the painting's details did not match those shown in an old photograph of the looted artwork believed to be taken in 1939 or 1940, according to the company.
A Polish team of experts later visited Japan to confirm that the painting was authentic and that it had been looted during the Nazi occupation. An ultraviolet scan showed that part of the original had been painted over.
"Polish citizens, who give the highest acclaim to Madonna with Child, have once again become its owner," said Yoshiaki Onoyama, Mainichi Auction's official who negotiated with the former Japanese owner for the return of the painting.
"There was no financial incentive for us, but I think we got the job done."