Moll's descendants are claiming that the painting was misappropriated  after World War II. Portrait of Greta Moll, 1908 was acquired by the gallery in 1979. Work by Moll and her husband Oskar was branded by the Nazis as ''degenerate.'' The husband and wife artists became friends with Matisse after they took a painting course conducted by the artist in his Paris studio. Oskar commissioned the portrait of his then 23-year-old wife in 1908.

Henri Matisse, Portrait of Greta Moll, 1908 Image via National Gallery, London Henri Matisse, Portrait of Greta Moll, 1908
Image via National Gallery, London

In 1947, the couple left Berlin for Wales, their home was destroyed and the only object which was saved from the devastation was Matisse's portrait of Greta. A friend of the Moll's, Gertrud Djamarani smuggled the artwork to Zurich dealer Heidi Vollmöller to keep it safe from an export ban. Later, Djamarani took a loan from Vollmöller and used the Matisse painting to secure the loan. It is believed Vollmöller went on to sell the portrait.

Henri Matisse photographed by André Ostier in 1942 Image via Christie's Henri Matisse photographed by André Ostier in 1942
Image via Christie's

In 1979, the National Gallery purchased the work for £450 000, it is currently on loan at the Tate Modern, where it has been since 1997.

The Moll family are now requesting the artwork be returned to them. However, the work is not part of the UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel as this organisation handles works which were seized from 1933-1945 and the couple fled their home in 1947. The Moll family will need to provide evidence as to why they did not go after the work in 1979, whilst the National Gallery will need to look into the provenance of the painting.

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