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300-year-old painting stolen by US soldier during WWII returned to German museum 80 years later

After a stopover in the U.S. that lasted the better part of a century, a baroque landscape painting that went missing during World War II was returned to Germany on Thursday.

The FBI handed over the artwork by 18th century Austrian artist Johann Franz Nepomuk Lauterer to a German museum representative in a brief ceremony at the German Consulate in Chicago, where the pastoral piece showing an Italian countryside was on display.

Art Recovery International, a company focused on locating and recovering stolen and looted art, tracked down the elusive painting after a person in Chicago reached out last year claiming to possess a “stolen or looted painting” that their uncle brought back to the U.S. after serving in World War II.

When war broke out in 1939, many Bavarian museum collections were evacuated to safe locations in the region, but the Lauterer painting has been missing since the beginning of the war, suggesting the possibility that it had been looted, according to the museum.

The Bavarian State Painting Collections first started searching for the painting between 1965 and 1973, but no clues about its location emerged until decades later.

Ebert, who flew from Munich to Chicago to retrieve the painting, will carefully bubble-wrap the centuries-old landscape to take it back home, where it will be touched up and restored after an eventful several decades.

Luckily, Ebert said, it should fit in his suitcase.

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