Cornelius Gurlitt (art collector)

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for Gurlitt's grandfather and namesake, see Cornelius Gurlitt (art historian)
for Gurlitt's great-uncle and namesake, see Cornelius Gurlitt (composer)
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Cornelius Gurlitt
Born Cornelius Gurlitt
Template:Birth date
Hamburg, Germany
Died Template:Birth date
Munich, Germany
Nationality German
Occupation Art collector
Parents Template:Plainlist
Relatives Template:Plainlist

Cornelius Gurlitt (December 28, 1932 - May 6, 2014) was a German art collector born in Hamburg. Cornelius Gurlitt's parents were the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt from well known Gurlitt family, and his wife Helene née Hanke. He grew up in the Dammtor district of Hamburg with his sister Renate, who was born there in 1935. His great-grandmother was Jewish, which caused his father be labelled as a "quarter-Jew" under Nazi race laws in the Volkszählung vom 17. Mai 1939, or so-called "German Minority Census" of 1939.[1]

In the spring of 2012, in the course of a tax investigation of the subject, German customs officials obtained a warrant to search the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt in the Schwabing district of Munich and discovered 1,406 works of art worth an estimated €1 billion. These works of art are alleged to have been stolen by the Nazis, and were later returned to the possession of Hildebrand Gurlitt. They were subsequently inherited by his son Cornelius. Whether his family has any knowledge of these allegedly stolen artworks is unknown, but extensive reports in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper state that Gurlitt lived "like a hermit" and refused entry to his apartment / art storage depot "even to close members of his family."[2]

On 2013-November-11, the German magazine Der Spiegel revealed that they received a letter from Gurlitt telling them that "the name Gurlitt may not appear in your magazine." Gurlitt then told two reporters from the Paris Match, who confronted him in a Munich supermarket, that "Applause from the wrong side is the worst thing there is." Der Spiegel found this comment "puzzling."[3]

Gurlitt died on May 6, 2014. Before his death, he wrote a will declaring the Bern Art Museum in Switzerland as his "sole heir". This created further controversy over the appropriateness of the museum accepting this bequest. The museum decided to accept those works which are not legally the property of previous Nazi-era owners, or their heirs, and has entered into a joint-agreement with German an Swiss authorities about the handing of this bequest. Gurlitt's family (cousins) also entered the discussion, raising questions about the legality of the will, based on his state of mind at the time. The process of winding up the Gurlitt estate has proceeded. Some of the artworks have been returned to the heirs of previous owners, and at least one major artwork from the collection has since been auctioned and sold; Two Riders on a Beach (1901), by Max Liebermann.

See also


  1. This "German Minority Census" is available in digital form at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Resource Center in Washington D.C. and at the German Federal Archives in Berlin-Lichterfelde. An unsourced copy of the database was published online by the Holocaust Era Assets and Restitution Taskforce.
  2. Süddeutsche Zeitung, full-page reports in the "Feuilleton" section of the newspaper in the week of 4-8 November 2013.
  3. Der Spiegel, 11 November 2013 (in German).