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Painting taken during World War II returned to owner's heirs

U.S. officials this week turned over a nearly 500-year-old Italian painting that had been stolen during World War II to the descendants of its Jewish owner. The painting, titled "Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged By A Rascal," was created by Italian artist Girolamo Romani around 1538.

The painting was confiscated by U.S. officials in 2011 while it was on loan to the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee, Fla. The work of art had resided at the Pinacoteca di Brera museum in Milan, Italy.

The seizure came after a tip from a Christie's employee that the painting may have been stolen.

Federico Gentili di Giuseppe, an Italian Jew who lived in Paris, owned the painting. He died in 1940 and his sizable collection of art was sold by the collaborationist Vichy government. His descendants have been trying to reclaim his art since the late 1990s.

The heirs are planning to sell the painting at a Christie's auction in June. Reports say the painting could bring in as much as $3.5 million.

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