Nazi looted art found at future site of Bush presidential library

Two valuable works of art looted by the Nazis during World War II have been discovered at Southern Methodist University (SMU), which is the future home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

The pair of paintings on display at SMU's Meadows Museum rendered by Spanish artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo of Seville's Patron Saints Justa and Rufina, estimated to be worth more than $10 million, are believed to have been stolen from the Rothschild family in Paris in 1941.

The Monuments Men Foundation (MMF), an organization that raises awareness of efforts made to preserve cultural items looted and damaged by the Nazi regime, made the announcement in a press release. MMF said the paintings were previously identified as stolen when they were located in Germany and Austria at the end of World War II. 

Bush awarded the group the 2007 National Humanities Medal at the White House for its overall work. The former president's office declined to comment on the story.

"The Monuments Men Foundation is proud to announce that after more than two and a half years of effort, University officials at SMU/Meadows Museum have now publicly acknowledged the correct provenance of these two paintings by Murillo," MMF founder and president Robert Edsel said in a statement.

Edsel said that the museum on the university's Dallas campus has recognized the Nazi theft of the artwork on their website on the museum's website and endorsed "best practices" with regard to stolen items.

"While we congratulate University officials on taking this important step, we underscore the importance of their completing provenance research on the entire collection and publicizing those results," he added.

He also urged the museum to add the art to a American Association of Museums database that allows victims of Nazi looting to have a fair chance to locate and recover their belongings. Edsel said that the foundation is still working to prove the Rothschild family was properly repaid by Dallas oilman Algur Hurtle Meadows, who endowed the museum in 1965.

According to the release, Nazi code evidencing Rothschild ownership is still visible on one of the paintings; it appears to have been rubbed off the other.

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