PARIS, DEC. 20 -- Twenty-eight French masterpieces seized by the Nazis during World War II, including paintings by Monet, Renoir and Gauguin, have been found in a cupboard at a Berlin museum, a newsmagazine reported today.
L'Express said the works -- seized from private citizens between 1942 and 1944 -- have been locked away since 1972, their existence known to only a handful of people.
According to the magazine, the Department of French National Museums learned the works existed in 1975 but "was not interested because the works did not come from national collections."
The paintings include Monet's "Road, Winter Effect, Sunset"; Delacroix's "Young Man"; Renoir's "Coco Writing"; and Gauguin's "The Cliff." They were examined by l'Express reporters who said they were in excellent condition.
The magazine quoted Lothar Brauner, curator at the Nationalgalerie, in what was formerly East Berlin, as saying he received the works on May 19, 1972, from an unidentified person claiming to have gotten them from a third party.
A legal document drawn up that day shows that the person wished to hand over the paintings "so that they would be properly preserved until being returned to their rightful owners."
Brauner said he did not know who the rightful owners are.
According to l'Express, French museum authorities were informed the works were in Berlin by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, itself contacted by East German authorities.
L'Express recounted how Brauner and his wife, a restoration expert, locked the paintings in a yellow wooden armoire and equipped it with a pail of water and a hydrometer to measure the humidity. From time to time, they would take out the paintings and check their condition, the magazine wrote.