ArtSherlock is an original project of the Communi Hereditate Foundation, developed in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and with funding from the Kronenberg Foundation of Citi Handlowy Bank.

Tel z cieniem

ArtSherlock automatically identifies works of art stolen in Poland during World War II


As the first tool of its kind, ArtSherlock is set to completely revolutionize the identification of artworks stolen during wartime. The innovative application can automatically recognize a work of art on the basis of a photograph taken with a mobile device camera, giving users the ability to identify a piece of art anywhere and anytime. The user can take a photo in real time or use one stored in the device’s memory, making this a versatile tool ready for any situation. Moreover, the photo used in the identification can be of the actual work or merely a snapshot of a pre-existing photo from, for instance, an auction catalogue or a computer screen. The application supports Polish and English and is available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.

More information on the project is available at


Looking to modern technology in the search for lost Polish cultural property

Keeping up with the times, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage is eager to utilize modern internet tools in its active search for Polish wartime losses. Early dividends to this approach include the location and recovery of Oswald Achenbach’s painting “Via Cassia Near Rome”, returned to the National Museum in Poznań in 2014. The Ministry’s systematic monitoring of the international antique art market led to the discovery of the work as it was put up for sale by a German auction house. Thanks to the ethical integrity of the individual in possession of the work, it was unconditionally returned to its rightful home.


The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage is constantly exploring modern methods in the search for lost cultural property and it registers lost works of art in global internet databases like the Lost Art Register and the database kept by Interpol. This course of action maximizes the visibility of Polish wartime losses, which in turn increases the odds of recovery.


The ArtSherlock project is yet another step towards modernizing and improving the effectiveness of the search for and identification of works of art lost by Poland as a result of World War II.



The marble bust of the ancient goddess Diana, looted during World War II, is back at the Palace on the Water for all to admire. On 18 December of this year, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński ceremonially handed over the bust made by Jean Antoine Houdon to the Director of the Royal Łazienki Museum Tadeusz Zielniewicz.

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Produced in 1777 by the French Neoclassical sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon, the sculpture depicts the Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon who often personified the night in 18th-century symbolism.

From the late 18th century, the Bust of Diana belonged to the collection of King Stanislaus Augustus and was on display in the Palace on the Water. The sculpture went missing from the Royal Łazienki Palace in 1940, during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Along with 56 painting from the National Museum in Warsaw, it was taken to Krakow, where the primary residence of Governor-General Hans Frank was located. From that point on, the whereabouts of the priceless sculpture remained a mystery until it recently resurfaced in a Vienna auction house upon being put up for auction by its possessor. Learning of its reappearance, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage took immediate action for the sculpture’s return. Also joining the efforts to have the sculpture returned to Poland was the Polish Embassy in Vienna and the firm Art Recovery Group. Both the Art Recovery Group and Ewa Ziembińska from the National Museum in Warsaw were awarded a distinction from the minister for their contributions to the sculpture’s recovery.

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Polish Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński with Ariane Moser of the Art Recovery Group, Royal Łazienki Museum Director Tadeusz Zielniewicz and lawyer Hannes Hartung.


The priceless work of art will reassume its historic place of residence in the Dining Room of the Palace on the Water. The only other copy of Houdon’s bust of Diana resides in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  

More information about the identyfication of the bust are available in the Valérie Roger's article. 



After more than 70 years, Krzysztof Lubieniecki’s Portrait of a Young Man has been returned to the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw. Having been looted by the Nazis in 1944, the work remained missing until 2009, when the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage learned that the painting was likely in the United States. The ensuing search resulted in the recovery of the painting by the FBI and its subsequent return to Poland.


The painting was originally acquired for the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw in 1938, and by August 1939, in the face of the impending outbreak of war, it was put away for safekeeping by museum staff. Packed into a crate given the designation M.P.4, it remained in the museum until the Warsaw Uprising. According to then-director of the museum Stanisław Lorentz’s “Chronicles from the Uprising,” the painting was removed from the museum by German occupying authorities on 9 October 1944. Lubieniecki’s painting was one of a number of works from the museum collection to be seized by the Nazis and put into storage inside Fischhorn Castle in Austria. Information reaching the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in 2009 revealed that in 1945 or 1946 the painting was taken to the United States by a soldier of the 42nd Infantry Division (known as the “Rainbow” Division) who had been stationed near the castle. Photographs of the painting were discovered by a descendant of the soldier among family heirlooms as he was researching his ancestry. Learning that the painting had been looted from the National Museum in Warsaw, the man contacted the Polish Ministry of Culture. At that time, all that was known of the painting’s whereabouts was that it had been sold in the late 1980s or early 1990s to a private collection in Columbus, Ohio.  

The personal involvement of the head of the FBI’s Warsaw office, Monika Wasiewicz, and the thorough investigation conducted by the FBI within the U.S. led to the establishment of the painting’s location. In late August 2015, the FBI informed the Ministry of the find and requested a positive identification of the canvas. A painting conservation expert and a representative of the National Museum then travelled to the United States and conducted a detailed examination which ended in the painting’s identity being unequivocally confirmed. Present during the proceedings, the individuals in possession of the painting agreed to hand over the painting to Polish officials. On 27 September 2015, Krzysztof Lubieniecki’s “Portrait of a Young Man” made its way back to Poland and back into the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw.

“Thanks to the joint efforts of U.S. authorities and our international partners, we were able to contribute to the return of this important work of art to its homeland. We are delighted to see the painting returned to the Polish government and to the National Museum,” announced an FBI spokesperson.

The “Portrait of a Young Man’ was painted in 1728 by Szczecin-born Baroque artist Krzysztof Lubieniecki (1659-1729), active in Amsterdam at the turn of the 18th century. He was known for his portraiture work and his biblical and genre scenes, with the majority of his output consisting of portraits of Amsterdam gentry, nobles, clergymen, physicians and poets. Lubieniecki’s portraits stand out for their meticulous treatment to the details emphasising the dignity and status of the subject.

In addition to this painting, cooperation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage has yielded the recovery of:

- in 2013, a prisoner’s cap from a Nazi concentration camp in Lublin (Majdanek concentration camp)

- in 2015, a 17th-century chalice, stolen in 1994 from the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Opactwo near Sieciechów

In 2014, cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the FBI also led to the recovery and return of 75 lost paintings by Hanna “Kala” Gordziałkowska-Weynerowska (1918-1998) to the Polish Museum in Rapperswil, Switzerland.

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New article by J. Robert Kudelski has just been published here. Find more about the wartime fate of the Veit Stoss altarpiece.

A bust of the goddess Diana looted from the Royal Lazienki Palace in Warsaw by the Nazis has been returned to the Polish government following an amicable resolution with the current possessor who had consigned the work for sale at a Viennese auction house.

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From the late 18th century, Jean-Antoine Houdon’s ‘Bust of the Goddess Diana’ was displayed in the collection of King Stanislaw August at the Royal Lazienki Palace.  In 1940, under Nazi occupation, the Houdon sculpture and 56 paintings from the National Museum in Warsaw were packed and transported to Krakow, the headquarters of the General Governor, Hans Frank.

The location of the Houdon bust remained a mystery until it was identified by the Polish Ministry of Culture with help of the National Museum in Warsaw when it was offered for sale at Im Kinsky auction house in Vienna. The Polish Ministry of Culture contacted Art Recovery Group who, acting on a pro-bono basis, worked together to encourage the co-operation of the auction house and the consigner in ensuring the restitution of the Houdon bust.

Utilising their extensive international network, Christopher Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery Group, also recruited a former adversary, Hannes Hartung, Managing Partner at Themis Partners, and his colleague Andreas Cwitkovits, to provide assistance at a local level.

With priceless diplomatic support offered by the Polish Ambassador to Austria, Artur Lorkowski, and Andrzej Kaczorowski, General Consul, an amicable resolution between the consignor and the Polish government was reached. The Houdon bust will now be returned to the Polish government ahead of a formal restitution ceremony at the Royal Lazienki Palace next month.

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There are still many works of art that as a result of Nazi plundering stays in Austria. The Polish government persists in its efforts to find and recovery all of them.


More information about the identyfication of the bust are available in the Valérie Roger's article.

A card table from the furniture collection of King Stanislaus Augustus has returned to the Royal Łazienki Palace in Warsaw. Listed as a wartime loss, the piece is back in Poland thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, with the table’s ceremonial return taking place on 30 April 2015 at the Palace on the Isle. The official decision entrusting the table to the care of the museum was signed by Minister of Culture and National Heritage Małgorzata Omilanowska and the director of the Royal Łazienki Park Museum Tadeusz Zielniewicz.

The Rococo inlaid card table was part of the opulent furniture collection of King Stanislaus Augustus (1764-1795). Initially serving as an element in the furnishings of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, it was likely relocated to the Royal Łazienki palace in 1836.

During World War I, the table most likely suffered the same fate as the Łazienki collection at large, being seized and sent away to Moscow.

In 1922, the campaign for the restitution of works of art from Russia carried out on the basis of the Treaty of Riga spawned the establishment of the State Art Collection to administrate the holdings of the Polish Treasury, which included the items from the Royal Łazienki estate. Exactly two years prior to the outbreak of World War II, the table resided on the first floor of the Palace on the Isle, as was noted in a 1937 inventory of Royal Łazienki Park property. On 1 February 1940, the piece was seized by German forces for the purpose of “furnishing the apartments at 13 Szopena street (residence of the former Czechoslovak envoy).”  

The table’s whereabouts remained a mystery until 2013, when it appeared in the catalogue of a Munich auction house. There was no doubt as to the identity of the table thanks to the numerous ownership markings appearing on the underside of the tabletop.

The circumstances enabled the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage – with the assistance of specialists from the Łazienki Park Museum, the Royal Castle and the National Museum in Warsaw – to file a restitution claim and to have the piece withdrawn from auction. But even after several months of discussions overseen by a renowned Berlin law firm, the party in possession of the table continued to categorically challenge the Polish ownership claims.

After an analysis of the possible legal recourses it was decided to file a lawsuit in the German court. That process yielded a settlement in which the Polish side agreed to cover the costs of the table’s restoration incurred by the opposing party.

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For no less than 70 years, the interiors of Wilanów Palace and its many friends had held out hope for the return of two exquisite pieces of 18th century furniture. An early-18th century Chinese cabinet and a lady’s writing desk produced ca. 1745 in the French workshop of Jacques Dubois (ca. 1693-1763) were discovered in 2014 at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden and returned to the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace in Wilanów with a formal handing-over ceremony on 17 February 2016.

kabinet1The Chinese-style cabinet’s double doors conceal an interior compartment with fifteen small drawers. Its surface is finished in black European lacquer and decorated with colourful Far East landscapes on a white background. The gold-plated lock and corner brackets, as well as the hinges and drawer pulls, are all decorated with ribbon ornamentation, which signifies the piece’s French origin.


Biurko1The rococo lady’s writing desk with hinged top came out of a workshop whose furniture pieces were nothing short of unique works of art. The desk still bears the master’s signature – “I.DUBOIS” – etched into the edge of one of the side walls and the “JME” hallmark of the French cabinetmakers’ guild, attesting to the piece’s highest possible quality. The desk is decorated with a technique and style that are characteristic of this particular workshop. The outer surfaces finished in black lacquer serve as the background for Eastern landscapes painted in gold and red after the Chinese style. The interior with drawers and a hidden lock box is finished in red lacquer. The drawer pulls and the trim of blossoming tree branches lining the edges are all made of gold-plated bronze.


Both pieces of furniture exemplify the fashion for Oriental art that swept across Europe in the 18th century. Both were also put on display in 1923 at the Exhibition of the Warsaw Society for the Preservation of Historical Monuments devoted to French art, as documented in the Inventory of exhibits on loan from Wilanów dated 30 April 1923, which today resides in the Central Archive of Historical Records. In the case of the desk, still affixed is a well-preserved paper label showing the round seal of Wilanów Palace and the desk’s position in the aforementioned inventory – #27, along with the year 1923. A similar label marking the cabinet survives only partially today, though the inventory reveals that the piece bore the number 30 and was described as “Dresser. Chinese decoration, French production, Wilanów collection.” This information would prove very helpful in verifying the identity of the two pieces of furniture found in Dresden.

The desk was most likely part of the décor of the Porcelain Room in the 1920s. In 1934, it was captured in a photograph taken by Dutch photojournalist Willem van de Poll. All the surviving records indicate that the desk probably remained in Wilanów Palace until 1944. The cabinet, meanwhile, was listed as a “first selection” item in the catalogue Sichergestellte Kunstwerke im Generalgouvernement, printed in Wrocław in 1940. In the winter or spring of 1940, the piece was packed into crate number WI 26 and assigned the number 274 among other cultural property seized by German occupying authorities from Wilanów Palace, the list likely being attached to a document certifying the objects’ receipt on 12 February 1940, signed by Josef Mühlmann. Yet, the cabinet was not among the items shipped off and remained for the time being in Wilanów. Between 19 June and 18 July 1941, the remaining crates of furniture were unpacked and the condition of the contents was checked, after which the furniture was put back into the crates.

It is known that in the period between August and October 1942, the previously packed-up furniture – the cabinet and desk most likely among the group – was once again unpacked and arranged in the palace’s rooms pursuant to an order issued by Alfred Schellenberg on 29 July of that year. The purpose was to recreate the palace’s historical décor for visitation purposes, as signed off on by Kajetan Mühlmann on 15 July 1942.

Near the end of 1944, Alfred Schellenberg put Jan Morawiński, a curator delegated from the National Museum in Warsaw, in charge of overseeing the packing of the furniture still in Wilanów Palace, which at that point was ordered by Kajetan Mühlmann to be moved to Wawel Castle. In May and June 1944, the furniture was packed and secured by the Schenker company. Yet, in all likelihood, the cabinet never made it to Wawel. A copy of Sichergestellte Kunstwerke with notations by Wilhelm Ernst Palezieux, left at Wawel Castle, shows the entry “fehlt” (Eng. – missing) in position number 353. Next to the other pieces on the list was information regarding their destination after removal in 1944 or an entry stating that they were left behind in Krakow.

Both of the pieces presumably shared the same fate as most of the other Wilanów furnishings and décor that were later removed by German troops in the autumn of 1944. An account given by the National Museum curator Jan Morawiński states that the items still at Wilanów were transported away in the autumn of 1944 under the supervision of Dr. Alfred Schellenberg. According to Morawiński’s account, that shipment was not inventoried.  

These two exceptional pieces of furniture once adorning the Wilanów Palace interiors were rediscovered thanks to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s “Daphne” project intended to inventory and determine the provenance of their exhibits. Having discovered the paper labels on the pieces, representatives of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden contacted the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace in Wilanów in late 2014 with the aim of verifying their origin. The case was taken over by the Division of Looted Art, a branch of the Department of Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, tasked with the recovery of Polish cultural property lost during the Second World War.  

edited by Marianna Otmianowska

The painting “Girl with a Canary” was acquired by the museum in 1928 at the Tradycja Antique Art shop owned by Franciszek Studziński in Krakow. The museum’s possession of the painting is confirmed by a series of photographs taken in 1930 of the Gallery of Polish Painting at the Silesian Museum in Katowice, in which the canvas by Leopold Loeffler is visible. Prior to that, the painting belonged to the collection of Czesław Kieszkowski of Krakow, who had purchased the work in 1878 from the Krakow Society of Friends of Fine Arts.

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Up to 1939, the museum displayed its collections in the buildings of the Voivodeship Office and the Silesian Council as it awaited the completion of its own building. The new structure, designed by Karol Schayer, was described as one of the most modern museum buildings in all of Europe. Though completed in 1939, the new museum did not have an official grand opening due to the outbreak of the Second World War. In fact, it was destroyed by occupying forces during the war, with the museum’s collection being plundered of many works. What remained was transported by the Germans to the Landesmuseum in Bytom, today known as the Upper Silesian Museum. The collections were stored away in the Bytom museum’s warehouses and in 1943-1944 the most valuable pieces were evacuated to western Upper Silesia. The war and the actions of Soviet authorities led to the building’s destruction and yet more of the museum’s possessions were dispersed. The exact details surrounding the disappearance of Loeffler’s painting remain unknown. After the war, the painting was deemed lost and included in the wartime losses register.

In August 2015, the painting resurfaced in a Polish private collection. An inspection of the painting confirmed its identity and revealed that its pre-war inventory numbers and institutional ownership stamp were still visible on the reverse side of the canvas. Upon discussions with representatives of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and of the Silesian Museum in Katowice, the person in possession of the painting agreed to return the work.

The body of work of Polish artist Leopold Loeffler (1827-1898) reflects two fundamental artistic currents, namely history painting and genre painting, with the recovered canvas being an example of the latter. Loeffler was one of the most popular painters of the pre-Matejko era. He garnered a following in Austria as well as in his homeland, where his success is largely attributable to the fact that he often painted scenes representing in the nation’s history. Loeffler’s paintings were often exhibited in Vienna’s Künstlerhaus and became sought-after for imperial and aristocratic collections as well as those of private collectors in Germany and England. One of the artist’s more prestigious commissions was for the design of the stage curtain for a Brno theatre in 1882.

The ceremonial return of the painting took place on 15 October 2015 in the new Silesian Museum building, with the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Małgorzata Omilanowska, and the Director of the Museum, Alicja Knast, in attendance.


Finally back in Wrocław is the painting St. Ivo Supports the Poor by Jacob Jordaens – a pillar of the Golden Age of Flemish painting alongside Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. Lost during the war, the painting has returned to Poland after six years of efforts by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ceremonial handing over of the painting took place on 13 February 2015 at the National Museum in Wrocław, with the heads of both ministries – Małgorzata Omilanowska and Grzegorz Schetyna – in attendance.

“The Painting has returned to Poland after more than 70 years. This is one of the most valuable works of art recovered in recent years. It is a stunning showcase of artistic virtuosity. What makes it interesting is that it is a sketch produced by the artist to entice the patron to commission a large scale final version. This painting allows us to study the handiwork of this great Flemish master; we see in it the extraordinary talent possessed by Jordaens,” announced Minister Omilanowska.

Painted in oil on an oak board, the composition depicts St. Ivo – a judge in Rennes and Tréguier, a parish priest in Louannec (1253-1303) and a great defender of the downtrodden – surrounded by the poor in an interior setting.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the painting resided in the collection of the Wrocław Museum of Fine Arts. In 1942, it was evacuated to a depository in Kamieniec Ząbkowicki and went missing soon thereafter. Only in 2008 did the painting resurface – in an auction at Sotheby’s London. The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage filed a restitution claim and the painting was subsequently withdrawn from auction. The painting’s provenance was indisputably confirmed upon analysis by Polish experts, during which infrared examination of the reverse revealed otherwise invisible markings indicating its Wrocław ownership.

Jordaens dobre

You can find a new book review in Articles - J. Robert Kudelski about the latest (second) Polish edition of the book "The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War" by Lynn H. Nicholas.


From 5 October to 6 November 2015, the square in the town of Zell am See is hosting the outdoor exhibition POLISH CULTURAL TREASURES AT FISCHHORN CASTLE – AN UNFINISHED STORY, organised jointly by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Polish Embassy in Vienna, along with Salzburg state authorities. The exhibition’s opening was accompanied by a screening of the latest film in the LOST MUSEUM film series, which tells the story of Polish treasure rescuer Bohdan Urbanowicz. The exhibition traces the fate of Polish artefacts that had been taken from Warsaw and hidden in the local castle, covering works of art that have recently been recovered as well as still-missing items being sought by the government of Poland.

After the defeat of the Warsaw Uprising in early October 1944, German occupying authorities seized the most valuable possessions of the National Museum, the Royal Castle, the Krasiński Library, the National Library and the Blue Palace, despatching the treasures to Austria and storing them in Fischhorn Castle. Lieutenant Bohdan Urbanowicz, an art historian and a prisoner in the POW camp at Murnau am Staffelsee, remained in Austria after the camp was liberated in April 1945 by American forces (Gen. Patton’s Seventh Army) and served as the Spokesman of Polish people – State of Salzburg, representing displaced Polish citizens. In July 1945, Urbanowicz learned that a stockpile of Polish royal treasures, paintings, furniture and books had been hidden in the mountains at Fischhorn Castle.

Left unattended, the hoard of Polish cultural property became the target of plunder by locals and even American troops. Then, with Urbanowicz being granted proxy authority by the Polish Ministry of Culture and Art, the American Military Government began efforts to secure the Polish works of art, calling on Urbanowicz in September 1945 to inventory the artefacts that had been recovered.

The efforts of Bohdan Urbanowicz, with the backing of the leadership of the “Rainbow” Division, led to the evacuation from Fischhorn Castle in the town of Zell am See near Salzburg a wealth of cultural property comprising 408 paintings, including works by Bacciarelli, Matejko and Gierymski, 68 tapestries, 43 sculptures, 154 pieces of antique furniture from the Royal Castle in Warsaw and the Łazienki Palace, numerous noble sashes, militaria and collections of prints from the University of Warsaw and the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts. The shipment from Salzburg, consisting of 12 railway cars, reached Warsaw on 23 April 1946.


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Priceless medieval manuscript "Sermones scripti", which was considered as destroyed was passed on November 17 to the National Library in Warsaw. The ceremony was attended by: Minister of Culture and National Heritage prof. Małgorzata Omilanowska, Director of the National Library Tomasz Makowski and representatives of the German side: prof. Thomas Bürger, Director of the Saxon National Library  - Dresden State and University Library and Rolf Nikel, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Poland.

The efforts of the Ministry of Culture to recover the manuscript lasted for several months. The manuscript has been identified in the electronic catalog of the University Library in Dresden. After that, The Ministry of Culture sent  an expert to the library to verify the identity of the manuscript. Expert confirmed that this is a lost document from the pre-war National Library.

Since first half of the fifteenth century manuscript had belonged to the vicars library  at the collegiate in Wiślica and was kept there until the early nineteenth century. Then went to the Library of the Warsaw Society of Friends of Science, from where after the collapse of the November Uprising was looted by the tsarist authorities together with other library collections and included in the Tsar's Public Library.

After the Polish-Soviet war, under the Treaty of Riga of 1921, nearly all exported to St. Petersburg manuscripts were returned to Poland, including "Sermones scripti". After returning went to the National Library. After the Warsaw Uprising in October 1944, manuscripts collection of the National Library had been almost completely burned and it was believed that among them was also "Sermons scripti". It turned out, however, that the manuscript was moved along with surviving collections of the National Library to Moscow. In 1958 manuscript was mistakenly revindicated from Moscow to the library in Dresden (SLUB) as it was considered to be a part of the Dresden collection confiscated in 1946  by the Soviet authorities.