Lovis Corinth’s (1858-1925) Still Life: Red and Pink Roses in a Vase on a Tablecloth (Flowers) of 1913 to be offered at Cologne auction house Van Ham.

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Now, this 2ft 8in x 2ft 2in (81.5 x 65.5cm) oil on canvas by the German Expressionist, which used to belong to the German-Jewish business couple Gustav and Emma Mayer, will be offered on June 1 at Cologne auction house Van Ham estimated at €250,000-350,000. Acquired by the Mayers between 1916-21, it is signed and dated on the right.

The Mayers fled to Brussels via Italy in 1938. Owing to the expenses of emigration, the Reich Flight Tax and the Jewish Property Tax, hardly anything was left of the Mayers’ property. A Frankfurt shipping company was able to transport their art collection, about 30 works, to Brussels, where it was stored.

After 14 months in Belgium, the Mayer family went to the UK a few days before the outbreak of the war and settled in Bournemouth. The paintings in Brussels were looted from the storage and confiscated by a special Nazi unit led by Hitler’s henchman Alfred Rosenberg between 1942-43. After the war ended this still-life was recovered by the art expert Leo Van Puyvelde, a member of an Allied committee for the protection and restitution of cultural property. Since the original owner could not be determined, it was handed to the Royal Museums in 1951.

In 2016, the Mayer family, represented by the law firm Trott zu Solz Lammek and Prof Fritz Enderlein, contacted the Belgian museums – eight years after an online database with 27 works of undetermined origin in their collections had been set up in order to track down their owners.

Finally, some 80 years after the theft by the Nazis and after years of research, the painting by Corinth has now been restituted to the heirs of the Mayers.