Portrait belonging to family of Georges Mandel is among 1,500 found in possession of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer

The painting 'Portrait of a Seated Young Woman' by Thomas Couture stands on a easel during a restitution ceremony to the heirs of Jewish French politician Georges Mandel in Berlin on January 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The painting ‘Portrait of a Seated Young Woman’ by Thomas Couture stands on a easel during a restitution ceremony to the heirs of Jewish French politician Georges Mandel in Berlin on January 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN — Germany on Tuesday returned a painting looted by the Nazis to the heirs of French Jewish politician and resistance leader Georges Mandel.

The portrait of a seated woman by 19th century French painter Thomas Couture had been on display in a spectacular collection hoarded by Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer.

Experts determined two years ago that the painting had been looted from Mandel, relying on a small hole in the canvas as evidence of its provenance.

Mandel’s lover had cited the hole above the seated woman’s torso when she reported the painting stolen after the war.

Gruetters was joined in the ceremony by a representative of the Kunstmuseum Bern, which inherited Gurlitt’s collection when he died in 2014, and an envoy from the French embassy.

Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Gruetters, right, overhands the painting ‘Portrait of a Seated Young Woman’ by Thomas Couture to Franz Rainer Wolfgang Joachim Kleinertz, left, and Maria de las Mercedes Estrada, second from left, heirs of Jewish French politician Georges Mandel, during a restitution ceremony in Berlin,on January 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

About 450 pieces from the collection by masters such as Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, and Picasso have been on display in Bern, the western German city of Bonn, and in Berlin.

Gruetters called the Couture painting’s return “a moving conclusion to the exhibitions of the Gurlitt trove” and underlined Berlin’s commitment to provenance research.

“We have Georges Mandel’s family to thank that we could show this work in all three exhibitions,” she said.

Georges Bonnet, left, the French Foreign Minister, left, and Georges Mandel, Colonial Minister, leaves the cabinet council at the Elysee in Paris, on April 12, 1939. (AP Photo)

“In this way, we could inform the public about the fate of the Jewish politician Georges Mandel, who was persecuted and imprisoned by the Nazis.”

More than 1,500 works were discovered in 2012 in the possession of Munich pensioner Cornelius Gurlitt.

His father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, had worked as an art dealer for the Nazis since 1938.

The discovery of the stash made headlines around the world and revived an emotional debate about how thoroughly post-war Germany had dealt with art plundered by the Nazi regime.

When Gurlitt died, the Berlin museum accepted the collection, though it left about 500 works in Germany for a government task force to research their often murky origins.

But determining their provenance has been slow, and it is still not clear how many of the works were stolen.

The Couture portrait was the fifth work from the collection returned to heirs, and the sixth definitively classed as having been looted by the Nazis.