What are the Musées Nationaux Récupération (MNRs) works?
After the Second World War, Allied forces found works and objects of art from France in Germany or in German-controlled territories, a number of which were presumed to have been looted. They sent 61,000 of them back. The Commission de récupération artistique (Commission for Art Recovery) (CRA), created in 1945, returned 45,000 of them to their rightful owners or their heirs. The Office des Biens et Intérêts Privés (Office for Personal Property and Interests) (OBIP), under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was entrusted, after the dissolution of the CRA in 1949, with the management of current files and subsequent applications.
At the OBIP’s request, most of the works considered as non-restitutable or of unknown origin (approximately 13,000) were sold by the Administration des Domaines (Land Administration Department) between 1950 and 1953. With the exception of those selected on various criteria – above all that of their artistic value – these were to be entrusted to the custody of national museums (approximately 2,100 works, including some 1,000 paintings), pending possible identification by their legitimate owners. The OBIP assigned the management of these works to several national museums, depending on the nature of the works (Musée du Louvre, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Musée de la Céramique de Sèvres).
As they do not belong to the national community, these works have not been included in museum inventories, but in special provisional inventories commonly called MNRs (Musées Nationaux Récupération: artwork recovered from Nazi plunder and allocated to French National Museums). The abbreviation MNR strictly designates the old paintings now kept at the Musée du Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, and, in a broader sense, all the works resulting from artistic recovery, which are identified by different abbreviations depending on the technique or museum. Thus the “MNRs” are in reality “RECs” for the drawings of the Graphic Arts Department of the Louvre Museum, “RFR” for the sculptures of the Sculptures Department, or “RP” for the paintings of the Musée National d’Art Moderne, “RS” for the sculptures of the Sculptures Department, and so on.
MNR works looted between 1933 and 1945 must be returned to the heirs of the dispossessed owners, after study by the museum and the Ministry of Culture, and if necessary, on the proposal of the Commission pour l’indemnisation des victimes de spoliations (Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation) CIVS).
The MNRs at the Musée d’Orsay
The MNR works of artists born between 1820 and 1870 are currently assigned to the Musée d’Orsay, in application of the decree of January 27, 1976. They are physically kept at the Musée d’Orsay or on deposit in regional museums. Some of them are not on permanent display, but can be seen upon request to the museum.
The lists published here are intended to make it easier to find these works. All the information known to date can be consulted on two databases of the Ministry of Culture:
- the Rose-Valland database, strictly dedicated to MNRs, which provides indications on the history and provenance of the works.
- the Orsay database, regularly updated, for the bibliography and exhibitions of these works.
The list of MNRs at the Musée d’Orsay includes:
- 145 paintings (MNR)
- 26 sculptures (RFR and RS)
- 2 pastels (REC)
It does not, however, include drawings and pastels (REC) physically kept at the Graphic Arts Department of the Louvre Museum, for which we refer to the department’s database and the Rose Valland database.
List of MNRs at the Musée d’Orsay
A list of the MNRs entrusted to the management of the Musée d’Orsay is available by downloading the document below.
To find out more
In addition to the database of MNR works, the Rose-Valland Musées nationaux Récupération site of the Ministry of Culture contains many historical resources on MNRs and useful links for provenance research.