For many museums, the prospect of a United States attorney swooping in to seize a painting on loan from a foreign institution on suspicions that it had been looted by the Nazis would be a potential public relations and diplomatic nightmare.
For the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee, Fla., it has been a fund-raising opportunity.
The museum was in the middle of a do-or-die campaign to raise $500,000 in July when Pamela Marsh, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Florida, ordered the Brogan to hold onto a 16th-century painting on loan from an Italian gallery because it might have been stolen from a Jewish family during World War II.
Recognizing a chance to raise its profile and attract donors, the Florida museum trumpeted the news on its Web site with the headline “The Brogan Museum at the Center of International Intrigue.”
The rest of the works from a 50-piece exhibition of Baroque painting in Lombardy went back in September to the museum that lent them, the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, while the work in dispute, Girolamo Romano’s “Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue,” from 1538, remains on the Brogan’s third floor until its ownership is settled.
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