NEW YORK - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents on Dec. 15 seized two Julian Falat paintings entitled "Off the Hunt" and "The Hunt," which were stolen from the National Museum in Warsaw, Poland, by the Nazis during World War II.
According to the complaint filed on Dec. 15 in Manhattan federal court, in August 1944, the German S.S. Obersturmbannfuhrer Benne Von Arent took over the Polish National Museum and confiscated the most valuable items in the museum's possession, including "The Hunt" and "Off to the Hunt." Many of those treasures are still missing and have not been returned to the rightful owners. In 2006, the Polish government enlisted the assistance of ICE when it became aware that these two these national treasure paintings were being offered for sale at two New York auction houses.
After ICE HSI conducted an investigation into the paintings, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York filed a civil complaint against the two paintings seeking their forfeiture on several bases, including that the paintings constitute stolen property imported into the United States in violation of law.
Falat was born in 1853 in Tuliglowy, Poland, and is well known for his hunting and landscape paintings. The Falat "Off to the Hunt" painting was first publically displayed at the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland, in November 1901. It was subsequently sold to a private individual who later returned the painting to the Society as a gift in 1904. In December 1939, "Off to the Hunt" was transferred from the Society to the premises of the National Museum in Warsaw, Poland, which was used by the Nazis during World War II as a German depository of Polish national treasures. This move to the museum was the last known documented location of the "Off to the Hunt" painting. Sometime during WWII, "Off to the Hunt" was removed from the museum by the Nazis without its frame. It had been missing until 2006 when the Polish government became aware that it was being offered for sale at Christie's auction house in New York.
The Falat painting entitled "The Hunt" was bequeathed on June 6, 1914 by its first owner, Ludwik Norblin, to the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland. During WWII, "The Hunt" was moved to the Polish National Museum, in Warsaw, Poland, just as the painting "Off to the Hunt" had been moved. "The Hunt" was stolen by the Nazis during WWII and remained missing until 2006 when the Polish government became aware that the painting was being offered for sale at Doyle New York Auctioneers and Appraisers in New York, N.Y.