The handover ceremony took place at the Gołuchów Castle Museum on Friday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.
Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński told the media that the diptych “is coming home.”
The twin paintings, Mater Dolorosa and Ecce Homo, are by 15th-century Flemish painter Dieric Bouts, officials said.
Gliński stressed that “they will be hung in exactly the same place from which they were taken in 1939.”
He hailed the return of the Nazi-looted diptych as “one of our most important art restitution processes” and thanked Spanish authorities for their assistance.
From Gołuchów to Pontevedra and back
Bouts’ Mater Dolorosa and Ecce Homo were once owned by Poland’s Czartoryski princely family, the PAP news agency reported.
The religious diptych was part of an art collection assembled by Izabella Czartoryski at the Gołuchów Castle in western Poland in the late 19th century, officials said.
When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Izabella Czartoryski transferred some of her collection, including the Bouts paintings, to Warsaw.
Soon later, the Polish capital fell to the Nazi Germans and in 1941 the twin artworks were confiscated by the occupation authorities.
After the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the Germans transferred stolen art, including Mater Dolorosa and Ecce Homo, to Austria, reporters were told.
The subsequent whereabouts of the diptych were unknown until 2019, when officials at Poland’s culture ministry visited the website of the Provincial Museum in the northwestern Spanish city of Pontevedra, the PAP news agency reported.
After establishing that the twin paintings were in Pontevedra, the Polish culture ministry launched a restitution procedure and the diptych was eventually returned to Poland in January 2023.
“The paintings will return to the Gołuchów Castle, which is now a subsidiary of the National Museum in Poznań,” Gliński told reporters at the time.
Poland’s cultural losses in WWII total EUR 10 billion: deputy PM
At the handover ceremony in Gołuchów Castle on Friday, Gliński noted that the Polish government last year announced that the losses suffered by Poland at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II totalled PLN 6.22 trillion (EUR 1.3 trillion).
Gliński added: “We are owed this sum as damages.”
He estimated that Poland's cultural losses were worth at least EUR 10 billion, including “over half a million lost artworks.”
He added: “Over the past seven years, we have reclaimed over 600 artworks all around the world. At the moment, 135 restitution processes are under way in 15 countries.”
Gliński declared: “Due to the enormous scale of losses, every retrieved piece of art is very important for us.”
Meanwhile, Spain’s Ambassador to Poland, Ramiro Fernández Bachiller, said that for his country, it was “extremely important” that stolen art was being returned to its rightful owners.
He thanked Gliński and Poland’s culture ministry for their "extraordinary commitment, thanks to which these paintings, which had been illegally taken away, have now returned to your country.”
Source: PAP, gov.pl