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Painting Stolen By Nazis Is On Display Again At Raleigh Museum

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RALEIGH — The sad story of a 16th century painting has a happy ending in Raleigh. The painting, stolen by Nazis and then returned to its rightful owners, is now on display againat the N.C. Museum of Art.

"Madonna and Child in a Landscape" is small, but its significance is huge. Museum curator John Coffey says the painting has become a symbol of long-delayed justice finally achieved.

With quiet fanfare, the painting returned to a place many thought it would never be again. The museum gave up the painting in January when it learned the piece was stolen by Nazis from a Jewish family during World War II.

"Once we knew the facts, of course, there was no choice but to return the painting to its rightful owners," says museum director Dr. Larry Wheeler.

The museum's good deed paid off. The original owners' heirs agreed to sell the painting back to the museum for a fraction of the cost. The painting now takes on new meaning.

"Religious icon, aesthetic object, war loot, propaganda, elusive object of a quest and a symbol of hope and reconciliation -- this small exquisite painting has been all of these things," says Coffey. "It's various and contradictory meanings are the product of an extraordinary history."

Wheeler calls the event a culmination of a long adventure in doing the right thing. He hopes to set a good example for other museums facing similar challenges.

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Laurie Clowers, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
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