December 19, 2006
G.I. Joes to the Rescue of Rembrandts and Raphaels
The New York Times
Through the centuries many people have been haunted by the work of Raphael, but probably few have been haunted in quite the same way as Bernard Taper.
Even now, at 88, he says he finds a certain painting continuing to surface in his memory. It is an elegant portrait of a young man that Mr. Taper knew in 1947 only from a black-and-white photograph he had been given, much in the way a detective is handed a snapshot of a missing person.
At that time, in the ruinous aftermath of World War II in Europe, the Raphael portrait was one of the most prominent masterpieces to have disappeared, but it had considerable company. Thousands of paintings, sculptures and artifacts that had been looted by the Nazis — many of them bound for Hitler’s long-envisioned Führer Museum in Linz, Austria, his boyhood home, or confiscated for the collection of Hermann Goering, Hitler’s chief art-looting rival — remained missing at war’s end.