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Hermitage Museum to Display Paintings Seized From Germany, Considered Lost

DOZENS of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings seized by Soviet troops after World War II, including some works feared lost, will go on display in Russia next spring, museum officials announced Tuesday.

Nearly 80 paintings taken from Germany at the end of the war will be shown at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in the first of a series of exhibits of captured works.

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The existence of the paintings, by such artists as Degas, Cezanne, Daumier, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Van Gogh, was a state secret until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

``Many of these pictures have been sought for more than 50 years, or were believed to have either been destroyed or lost,'' says Vladimir Matveyev, deputy director of the Hermitage.

The question of whether the paintings should be returned to Germany or restitution made is a touchy one and ``should be decided by the appropriate authorities,'' Mr. Matveyev says.

Only a few people knew about the works until a brief item about the exhibit appeared last week in the St. Petersburg News.

Matveyev says the paintings are in excellent condition.

The Hermitage has not identified many of the paintings, but it has confirmed that the March show will include the Degas masterpiece ``Place de la Concorde,'' which is often reproduced in art books with the annotation ``Missing. Believed destroyed.''

``The White House at Night,'' which Van Gogh finished six weeks before his death in 1890, will also be displayed.

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``We believe that in these matters the main thing nowadays is to show what we have, plainly and openly,'' Mikhail Pyotrovsky, the Hermitage's director, told the New York Times recently.

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