A water lilies painting by Claude Monet that once belonged to a Japanese collector but was lost for decades after the Second World War has been found hidden away in the Louvre.
The oil painting, called Water Lilies: Reflection of Willows, thought to be a study for the impressionist’s most iconic works, was reportedly discovered by a researcher rolled up in the corner of a storage facility at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The value of the painting has not been disclosed, although Monet’s artworks are famously among the most expensive in the world, with one of his celebrated Water Lilies paintings selling for £32 million at auction in 2014.
The canvas, now badly damaged, once belonged to the Japanese business tycoon and prolific art collector Kojiro Matsukata, who is thought to have bought it directly from the artist before the war.
The painting, which measures more than two by four metres in size, disappeared after he sent it to Paris for safe keeping during the years building up to the Second World War alongside numerous other Western works from his collection.
During the war, Mr Matsukata’s collection was requisitioned by the French government as enemy property, before the artworks were eventually returned to Japan by the French government in 1959.
The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo was created during the same year – nine years after Mr Matsukata’s death – in order to showcase the surviving artworks in his expansive art collection, although the oil painting could not be found.
The painting is thought to have been transferred to the rural outskirts of Paris for protection during wartime bombings, although it was subsequently missing for decades, according to the Asahi newspaper.
Since its discovery at the Louvre last year, the painting has been returned to Japan where experts are currently undertaking the painstaking task of restoring it before it is exhibited at the National Museum of Western Art in June next year.
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The painting, created in 1916, is understood to be a study for perhaps the artist’s most iconic artworks, the series of Water Lilies paintings in the Musée de L’Orangerie in Paris.
Highlighting its cultural significance, Akiko Mabuchi, director of the National Museum of Western Art, told the Asahi that the damaged painting was “a valuable work that is indispensable in research of Monet”.