Iraklion’s El Greco ‘was Nazi plunder’

The only El Greco work displayed on the painter’s native island Crete could have been looted from Hungary by Nazis, according to a lawsuit filed in New York yesterday. The Historical Museum of Crete bought Domenicos Theotocopoulos’s «View of Mount Sinai and the Monastery» (1570), a swirling oil and tempera on wood, at a private auction in London 14 years ago. It was lent to New York for a special exhibition on El Greco held from October 7 until January 11. Yesterday, Swiss resident Joram Deutsch filed a lawsuit in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court, claiming the painting had belonged to the Halvany family in Budapest before being stolen by Nazis during World War II. Deutsch, who said his father represented the Halvanys, asked that the work be kept in New York until its provenance was established. But the museum said in a statement yesterday that the painting was already back in Iraklion, Crete, adding that it had «diligently researched its provenance» before the exhibition. «The painting had aroused no such challenges during previous exhibitions in Venice, Edinburgh and Crete,» the statement added. The museum said it had not received any formal legal notice calling for the work to be held in the US.

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