Painting Looted by Nazis Found at U.S. Museum

The painting was identified using a combination of sophisticated text-based and visual matching technologies that goes beyond the limitations of a solely text-based search.

Last week, experts with the online registry of lost art Trace.com identified a painting they believe may have been looted by the Nazi's. Experts estimate the value of the painting, originally reported looted by the Belgian government, at over $250,000. The company has informed the Belgian government of the potential find.

The painting was identified using a combination of sophisticated text-based and visual matching technologies that goes beyond the limitations of a solely text-based search.

"In this case, the pictures appear identical but the descriptions are quite different, so such a match might not appear in an ordinary text-based search. To make sure match results are credible, Trace incorporates sophisticated visual matching technology, which transcends the problems of text-based searching caused by differences in descriptions, jargon or language," Benny Arbela, chief executive officer of Trace, said.

Trace works with auction houses, dealers, pawnbrokers and more to check whether valuable items have been ever reported missing, stolen or looted. The organization's database contains records on more than 420,000 items including paintings and jewelry.

"By building a comprehensive database of looted art, and making much of this information available to the public for the first time, we are confident that the project will contribute to the identification and return of looted art that otherwise may have been lost to the victims' families forever," Jacob Khokhlov, Trace Head of Art Services, who researched the painting, said.

It has been estimated that the Nazis systematically looted about 20% of all Western art, and there remains 100,000 items reported looted at large.

Preventing the future sale of looted art

Many of the items stolen by the Nazis disappeared into private collections and Swiss bank vaults. Occasionally these items reappear for sale at auctions. Major auction houses check the Trace database before publishing their catalogues to make sure they are not auctioning an item with questionable ownership. If a looted item is searched, the appropriate authorities are alerted.

Trace developed the Looted Art Project to leverage its network of auction houses, dealers, museums, collectors and law enforcement to help identify objects plundered by the Nazis. The comprehensive database of Holocaust-Era looted art is checked against objects for sale by dealers and auction houses.

There are two ways individuals can identify property believed to be theirs using Trace.com. The first incorporates a highly sophisticated image-matching technology that allows images provided by victims to be used to search items on the registry. The second allows families to enter descriptions of items -- whether from memory or written documents. The text-based matching facility will identify all items matching the description.