Portraits of the deceased were incorporated into the traditional mummification of the dead between the first and third centuries when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire. They are considered an exceptional example of Greek art culture.
German publisher and art collector Rudolf Mosse died in 1920 and left his estate to his daughter, Felicia Lachmann-Mosse, who fled Germany with her husband in 1933 with the rise of the Nazi Party. The Roman-era paintings were among 400 items confiscated by the Nazis in 1934 and sold by two Berlin auction houses.
These paintings were acquired by Erich Maria Remarque, author of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and bought from his widow by the University of Zurich in 1979.
Mosse’s heirs formed the Mosse Art Restitution Project to reclaim the stolen artwork. Catalogs from the auctions were “more or less precisely described,” allowing lawyers representing the project to help identify the artwork.
The Mosse foundation has had some spectacular successes. Last year, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation returned eight artworks to it, including a Roman sarcophagus.