New research suggests that a 17th-century painting held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was likely owned by Jewish art dealer Siegfried Aram, who left the work in Germany when he fled the country in 1933. According to a report by the New York Times, the museum is launching an investigation into the work’s history.
The painting, which depicts the Old Testament narrative of the rape of Tamar, is attributed to the French artist Eustache Le Sueur and was purchased by the Met in 1984. Records submitted with the legal filing allege that Aram attempted to retrieve his painting following World War II, and they also detail the persecution he faced before he left Germany. Aram was forced to sell his house in Schapbach, Germany, for a too small sum to German businessman Oskar Sommer, whom Aram accused of having illegally taken his painting.
Sommer’s family sold the work at Christie’s in London in 1983, where it was listed as “the property of a gentleman” with no reference to Aram. The Times reports that the work could be worth $1.5 million today.
“The Met has a long history of working with claimants to research and find a just and fair solution in cases of art wrongfully appropriated during the Nazi era,” the museum told the Times of its commitment to investigating the matter.
Aram bought the painting, which was previously believed to show the Roman legend of the rape of the noblewoman Lucretia by Tarquin, the son of an Etruscan king, in the 1920s. He became a prominent dealer in New York in the late 1930s.