The strange case of the reclusive Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer, in whose Munich apartment German authorities discovered a massive collection of disputed art estimated to be worth more than $1 billion—continues to get stranger, even after Gurlitt’s death last week at 81.
In the first twist, Gurlitt left a will bequeathing the entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern, a fine arts museum in Switzerland with which Gurlitt had previously had no involvement. Today, however, the Wall Street Journal reports that a second will was discovered, drawn up in January, the contents of which are still unknown.
But it might not matter what either of the wills contain. According to the Wall Street Journal, a deal reached in April between Gurlitt’s legal team and the German government, in which Gurlitt agreed to return the works to the heirs of their rightful owners—many of them Jewish art collectors living in Germany before the Holocaust—remains intact.
This is because Mr. Gurlitt signed a document on April 7 agreeing to return all artworks found to have been looted to their original owners. The Bavarian justice ministry, a party to this agreement, said last week the pledge was legally binding on Mr. Gurlitt and his heirs.
Matthias Henkel, spokesman for the task force of experts appointed by the government to research the trove, told The Wall Street Journal: “This does not change anything. The agreement Mr. Gurlitt signed remains valid. We will work cooperatively with his heirs, whoever they are.”
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.