Prized Mykhailo Panin Painting Returns to Ukraine
For a first time in recent history paintings stolen by the Nazis will return to Ukraine. Washington will hand over the work of Mykhailo Panin which had previously been in the possession of the Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum. Why this particular painting is so unique and the reason it took a whole special operation by the FBI to bring it back?
During wartime, the Nazis stole the painting, along with hundreds of other art objects. The piece is finally returning to Ukraine.
But along the way, it’s made several stops on its long journey. It has been a part of several European gallery collections, and back in the 60s – it was bought for a private collection in the United States. The last owners had no idea about the true value of the painting they owned.
“I remember when my dad bought the house – it was shortly after my mother died and I had moved in with him for a bit with my brother – and the picture was in the house when he bought it and we sort of thought it was fantastic and wild and made up lots of stories about it but had no idea where it came from. And I guess we sort of fell in love with it, in its enormity. So it was really a sort of a neat thing for the family to look at and come up with great stories where it might have come from,” Jennifer Tracy said.
After moving into a new house, the Tracy family handed the painting over to a local gallery. There, the work was put up for online auction, where it grabbed the attention of Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum employees. They reached out to the embassy and the FBI. After thorough investigations and strenuous lawsuits, the court verdict was to have the painting return to its rightful place.
“As a rule, the United States takes a quite cautious position in such matters. But this has definitely been a move by the U.S. Department of State, to prove that relations between Kyiv and Washington are mutually beneficial. Such exchanges of cultural property are very important, and we must appreciate them,” Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly said.
The transfer process was kept secret. After all, the Kremlin also had an interest in acquiring the painting. Moscow believes that they too own the right to the canvas, as Russia remains the official successor to the Soviet Union.
“The FBI and us, we kept silent about it, but, some information about the process leaked anyways. Numerous journalists started writing about it. Some said we must return the painting to Russia. A very odd story. I think the right thing to do would be to return the painting to the Dnipro Art Museum, where it was previously stored,” Chaly said.
When, and how the painting will be transferred back to Ukraine – is still in the planning. After all, the canvas is massive. One of the options is to use the president’s plane to transport and officially return the painting during Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian embassy thanked the former American owners of the painting with a gift – a Petrykivka painted plate.