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The Cover
December 21, 2011

Madonna and Child in a Landscape

JAMA. 2011;306(23):2542. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1827

Philipp von Gomperz was a wealthy Austrian industrialist whose art collection may have saved his life. In the 1930s, the Nazi government of Germany was persecuting its Jewish citizens and confiscating their property. As a Jew himself, Gomperz was well aware of the danger when Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, so he signed over his art collection to the Nazis to secure safe passage for himself and his family to Switzerland. After the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, Gomperz tried to reclaim his property, but the paintings had changed hands so many times that he was unable to locate them before his death in 1948. His family carried on the search with the assistance of the Commission for Art Recovery of the World Jewish Congress. In 1984, researchers located a painting at the North Carolina Museum of Art that appeared to be the centerpiece of the Gomperz collection, Madonna and Child in a Landscape (cover) by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). The museum had received it from the estate of George Khuner, a Hungarian-born Jewish business executive, who had bought it from a dealer without knowing its provenance. If this was the same Madonna that was taken from Gomperz, his family wanted it back.