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A painting by Emile Lecomte-Vernet, entitled Aimee, a Young Egyptian, was one of several hundred artworks that the Nazis forced Max Stern to sell at vastly discounted prices in a 1937 auction. ((Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press))

Concordia University has recovered what it hopes will be the first of many paintings that belonged to a prominent Jewish art collector who fled Germany and moved to Canada.

On Thursday the university's gallery in Montreal unveiled the painting by Emile Lecomte-Vernet, entitled Aimee, a Young Egyptian, in a ceremony returning it to its rightful owner, the estate of Dr. Max Stern.

The painting was part of Stern's collection before he was forced by the Nazis to sell his inventory — at greatly reduced prices — at Lempertz auction house in Cologne in 1937.

He moved to Canada in 1941 and became a prominent art collector and dealer in Montreal. When he died in 1987, he left his estate to a foundation that benefits Concordia and McGill universities in Montreal, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Robert Vineberg, the executor of his estate, told CBC News he sees the recovery of Aimee as the beginning of a long process.

"There were more than 250 works of art that were sold in that auction," Vineberg said. "No.1has been returned. Hopefully there will be a number more."

Painting resurfaced in 2001

Both Concordia and McGill has been working with the New York-based Holocaust Claims Processing Office to track down the paintings sold in the 1937 auction.
The Lecomte-Vernet painting only resurfaced in 2001, at a Sotheby's auction in the United States.

The auction house "undertook all the necessary steps to enable the Stern estate to recover this painting," said Willi Korte, a German-born specialist in the tracing of Nazi-looted art.

Aimee is an 130 cm high by 88 cm wide oil on canvas depicting a beautiful young Egyptian woman painted in 1869.

It will be displayed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.