Following provenance research, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has returned a Flemish Old Master painting by Frans de Momper, which had been spoliated during World War II, to its rightful owners.

The painting, titled A Winterscene by a Village with Travellers, like many valuable artworks, fell victim to the consequences of war and looting during one of European history’s darkest periods.

The artwork was part of the EIB art collection and exemplifies the rich cultural heritage of Europe, the promotion and safeguarding of which is upheld by the EIB to this day. It had been acquired by the Bank in good faith from a German Gallery in 1993.

In 2020, the EIB decided to investigate the provenance of all artworks pre-dating 1945 in its collection. The Bank sought the expertise of relevant specialists (the London-based Art Loss Register and found evidence of the Frans de Momper painting’s questionable seizure during World War II. After having identified the rightful owners of the work, the EIB initiated the return of A Winterscene by a Village with Travellers to the owners’ descendants.

“This decision reflects the EIB’s commitment to upholding the principles of restitution, rectifying historical injustices and taking concrete actions to right wrongs committed“ said Monique Koning, member of the Arts Committee at the EIB.

Lauren Gladstone, speaking on behalf of the rightful heirs to the painting, shared: “The return of A Winterscene by a Village with Travellers means so much to my family and our history. We are grateful to the European Investment Bank for allowing this artwork to be reunited with my family after so many years.”

The restitution of the Flemish painting serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of art theft and spoliation during wars and periods of conflict. It underscores the collective responsibility to preserve cultural heritage and honour the memory of those affected by historical injustices.