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Dutch museums find 139 works likely looted

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

AMSTERDAM — A major investigation into whether art hanging in Dutch museums may have been Nazi loot has yielded an unexpectedly large result: 139 suspect works, including ones by masters such as Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky.

The bombshell announcement on Tuesday by the museums raises the question of why it has taken them 70 years to examine their collections in a systematic way since World War II — and suggests that more art forcibly taken from Jewish owners may emerge in countries yet to do so.

“These objects are either thought or known to have been looted, confiscated or sold under duress,” said Siebe Weide, director of the Netherlands Museums Association. He said returning them is “both a moral obligation and one that we have taken upon ourselves.”

The tainted art involved 69 paintings, including French artist Henri Matisse's 1921 “Odalisque” painting of a half-nude reclining woman, which hangs in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, one of the country's top tourist draws.

Many American and British museums have conducted thorough investigations leading to the return of looted art, though nothing has been done on a nationwide basis.

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