Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

French Painting Stolen by Nazis in WWII Finally Returned

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Camille Pissarro’s Bergère Rentrant des Moutons (or Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep) has switched hands several times since it was stolen from its original owners by Nazis during World War II. Now, nearly 80 years since the looting, the piece has arrived at the Musée d’Orsay in its home country of France, Newsweek reports.

The saga began in 1941, when Nazis raided the bank vault of a Jewish family living in Southern France. After busting open the vault, the soldiers claimed the 1886 oil painting the Meyers had hidden inside.

The family went into into hiding and survived the Holocaust, and once the war ended they tracked down the missing art. It had ended up in Switzerland, but after taking the matter to court the family was denied rights to the property.

From there, the Pissarro was moved to the U.S. and eventually ended up at the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Léone Meyer, the Meyers' adopted daughter, learned of the painting’s new location through a blog post in 2012. She contacted the university explaining that the painting belonged to her family, and when the school didn’t agree to hand it over, she filed a lawsuit.

Meyer, whose birth parents were murdered at Auschwitz, described her mission to reclaim the painting as a “duty to my biological family and a duty to my adoptive family” in an open letter from 2014.

The 650,000 European works stolen by the Third Reich in World War II make up the largest art theft in history. Organizations exist to help return these pieces to their rightful owners, but the legal steps involved can get messy.

Meyer’s case ended in a settlement, with the two parties agreeing to shuffle the painting between the University of Oklahoma and a different French institution every three years. Meyer has also been declared the official owner. Before the new arrangement begins, Bergère Rentrant des Moutons will spend five years on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

[h/t Newsweek]

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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