CHICAGO, Ill. — Last Friday, the Windy City witnessed a historic reunion as a long-lost World War II masterpiece, ‘Landschaft italienischen Charakters’ (Landscape of Italian Character) by Austrian maestro Johann Franz Nepomuk Lauterer (1700–1733), was repatriated.
Hidden away for over seven decades since WWII, the painting’s unexpected appearance in the U.S. in 2011 caught international attention before vanishing once more until its rediscovery in 2022. With vital information from an international art recovery agency, the FBI’s Art Crime Team in Chicago spearheaded its return.
Held at the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chicago, the poignant handover ceremony saw participation from the FBI, Bavarian State Painting Collections – Alte Pinakothek museum, and key stakeholders.
Robert W. Wheeler Jr., the special agent in charge of the FBI Chicago Field Office, celebrated the dedication that led to this significant find. “The FBI’s Art Crime Team has been pivotal in reclaiming stolen art for almost two decades,” he said.
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Maaz, director general of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, emphasized the crucial role of Christopher Marinello and his unwavering commitment to the painting’s restitution.
As Markus Blume, the Bavarian State Minister for Science and Arts, aptly put it, the artwork’s return signifies both historical justice and a renewed appreciation for global cultural heritage. This Chicago-led triumph sets a precedent in the pursuit to preserve and return lost cultural treasures.