The Monuments Men and the Museum
It could be an impossible mission. With art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these men possibly hope to succeed?
And so begins the story of one of the greatest treasure hunts in recent history, in which a group of museum directors, curators, artists, architects, and educators ultimately returned more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis during the second world war.
Two of these works are currently on view at The San Diego Museum of Art.
See these works in context, and learn more about their journey from the Altaussee salt mine to their permanent home in the Museum's collection.
About The Monuments Men
"The Monuments Men" were a group of 350 men and women from thirteen nations who volunteered for service to protect monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II. In civilian life, many were museum directors, curators, artists, architects, and educators. In the last year of the war, they tracked located, and ultimately returned more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. Their role in preserving cultural treasures was without precedent. Upon returning home, many of the Monuments Men and women played prominent roles in building some of the greatest cultural and educational institutions in the United States
The Monuments Men and The San Diego Museum of Art
Two works, currently on view at the Museum were rescued during this effort.
Pseudo Pier Francesco Fiorentino. Madonna of the Roses, ca. 1485 0 90.
Stored by the Nazis in the Altaussee salt mine in Austria, that was used as a repository for art during WWII, this work was removed by the Allies to the Munich Art Collecting Point (run by the "Monuments Men"), and ultimately returned to the country of origin for restitution of the original owners or heirs. This painting had been looted from Vienna, Austria, and was returned to Austria after the war, and was finally restituted to the son of the original owners. | Watch an ArtStop on this work
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni. Cardinal Etienne-René Potier de Gesvres. 1758.
Also removed by the Allies to the Munich Art Collecting Point, this painting was ultimately returned to its country of origin for restitution to the original owners or heirs. This work was not looted, but purchased on the open market by Adolf Hitler's agents for inclusion in the proposed Führer Museum in Linz, Austria. It was returned to France after the war and then sold by the French Government since there was no one else to claim it.