Guest Post by Megan Mayfield, MOA Marketing Intern
During the years of World War II, the Nazi’s looted countless works of art from private collections and national museums. The stolen art was destined for the Führermuseum that Hitler believed would be the pride of the Third Reich. Priceless pieces such as Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, Vermeer’s The Astronomer, and Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece were just a few of hundreds of stolen artworks.
In Paris, during the Nazi occupation, it was the work of Louvre Curator Jacques Jaujard and head of the Nazi Cultural Conservation Program, Count Wolff-Metternich that saved much of the government-owned French art from being stolen. However, even with the vigilance of these two unlikely allies, art from private collections and Jewish homes were still carried off by the cartload.
This is where Rose Valland becomes a very important player.
Valland, a French national, was a worker at the Jeu de Paume art museum in Paris at the time of the Nazi occupation. She had worked at the museum as an unpaid volunteer long before the start of the War and, in 1941, Valland took charge of the museum after the curator fell ill.
In 1940, the ERR, the Nazi looting organization, turned the Jeu de Paume into their headquarters. During the entire four years of Nazi occupation, Valland maintained meticulous documentation of all the art that passed through the museum and where the art was going once it left Paris. Not only that, Valland eavesdropped on important meetings and followed Reichsmarshal Goering as he looted the stolen art for his personal collection.
After France was liberated, Valland worked closely with Jaujard as well as the famous Monuments Men to begin tracking down the lost art. Valland received a commission into the French First Army to continue her work. It was a massive undertaking that she met with optimism and national duty.
In 1954, Valland was named Chair of the Commission for the Protection of Works of Art. Valland also received a number of national and military honors for her work during and after the War. Valland’s vigilance helped recover hundreds of works of art, a debt that can never be repaid.