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The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam says it will return a painting by Henri Matisse to the heirs of a Jewish textiles manufacturer who sold it under duress in the Netherlands before being deported to a Nazi camp, where he died in 1945.

The painting, Odalisque (1920-21), has been in the museum’s collection since July 1941, when it was sold by Albert Stern, once the owner of one of the biggest manufacturers of women’s clothes in Germany and a patron of the arts.

The Dutch Restitutions Committee said in its evaluation of the heirs’ claim that the sale “was connected to measures taken by the occupying forces against Jewish members of the population and arose out of necessity”.

Stern’s wife Marie Stern, who had studied art, was the driving force behind the couple’s collection, which included works by Edvard Munch, Lovis Corinth and Vincent van Gogh. They lived in a beautiful home in the lakeside suburb of Nikolassee in Berlin, where they entertained artists, writers, musicians and collectors. The violinist Yehudi Menuhin is known to have performed there as a child.

The family fled to Amsterdam in 1937. By 1939, the Nazis had confiscated Stern’s business and the family home. After the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the family suffered further persecution and, by August 1941, they were living in a boarding house and selling their furniture.

At the time of the sale of the Matisse, Stern was desperately trying to escape the Netherlands and had attempted in vain to obtain visas to numerous countries, including the United States, Haiti and Cuba, according to a statement from the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which represents the Stern heirs.

Stern and his two sons both died in the Holocaust. His wife, Marie Stern, survived, as did two of his grandchildren.

“The return of the Matisse is a moving and overwhelming moment for us all,” the heirs said in a statement. “Our grandparents loved art and music and theatre, it was the centre of their lives. In the few years we had our grandmother after the war, she transmitted that love to us, and it has enriched our lives ever since. The decision has provided symbolic justice to our grandfather.”

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Stedelijk director Rein Wolfs said the museum has had questions about the painting’s provenance since 2013. It represents, he said, “a very sad history and is connected to the unspeakable suffering inflicted on this family”.

Touria Meliani, the alderman of culture at the municipality of Amsterdam, which owns the Stedelijk, described the suffering of Jewish citizens in the Second World War as “unprecedented and irreversible”.

“To the extent that anything can be repaired from the great injustice done to them, we as a society have a moral obligation to act accordingly,” Meliani added. “The return of works of art, such as the Odalisque painting, can mean a lot to the victims.”

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