In an effort to find the rightful owners of hundreds of works of art, the Louvre is displaying paintings stolen by Nazis during the occupation of France in the 1940s. Currently, 31 paintings are hanging in two rooms of the museum, on permanent display until their heirs are found. This is just a small portion of the 296 works held by the Louvre, and an even smaller percentage of the paintings left to be returned. An estimated 100,000 were looted in total, with 60,000 given back immediately after the war. Other museums, including the Musee d’Orsay and the Chateau de Versailles, have custody of some of the remaining works.
It’s a long process, however, to turn over the paintings, and in 2012, the French government established a working group to handle it. Those stepping forward to claim their families’ possessions must provide proof in the form of receipts, photographs or testimonies and verification can take years. The government maintains a database for this National Museum Recuperation effort, known as the Rose Valland List, named after a French curator who risked her life to keep notes on the stolen artwork.