Flight into Egypt by Circle of Dutch master Jan Wellens de Cock (1480-1527) was unveiled in Berlin on Wednesday. ((Max Stern Art Restitution Project/Concordia University))

The Montreal estate of art dealer Max Stern announced Wednesday the return of two paintings Stern lost when forced to sell his collection by the Nazis.

Flight into Egypt by the Circle of Dutch master Jan Wellens de Cock (1480-1527) was unveiled publicly in Berlin on Wednesday.

The painting, sold by the Dusseldorf art dealer more than 70 years ago, had at one point been in the collection of German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

The estate also confirmed the return of Girl from the Sabine Mountains by German court painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873).

It laid claim to the work after a ruling in a U.S. court last month, winning a protracted legal battle with German baroness Maria-Luise Bissonnette, whose father had bought the work.


Franz Xaver Winterhalter's Girl from the Sabine Mountains has been subject to a long legal battle. This image was obtained from a 1937 auction catalogue.

Stern was forced out of business in Dusseldorf in 1935 and by 1937 was forced to sell his entire art collection in a "Jew sale."

He fled to the U.K. and later to Canada and re-established himself as an art dealer in Montreal.

Stern had no direct heirs and left his estate to benefit three major universities — Concordia and McGill University in Montreal and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Max Stern Art Restitution Project has been set up to recover some of the approximately 400 works he lost.

Many of the paintings from the Stern collection remain in circulation in German museums, corporate offices and private collections, according to the estate.

Estate representative Clarence Epstein said the Max Stern Project has begun negotiations to recover some of the remaining works.

"We are in the first stage of pursuing the artworks which we believe are in Germany," he said Wednesday in Berlin.

The return of the de Cock painting was settled with help from Christie's auction house, which checked the provenance of the painting on a database of lost and stolen art when it came up for auction.

Research by the Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague helped the Max Stern Project identify 42 more paintings that could be traced to Europe and the U.S., Epstein said.

Among the paintings under negotiation:

  • The Masters of the Goldsmith Guild in Amsterdam in 1701 by Juriaen Pool II (1665-1745).
  • Allegory of Earth and Water by Jan Brueghel I (1568-1625).
  • A Brawl in a Tavern by Jan Steen (1626-1679).
  • St. Paul by Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533).