Lucas Cranach’s painting “Madonna under the Fir Tree” is one of his loveliest works. It hung in the Cathedral of St. John in what was then Breslau, Bohemia, which later became Wroclaw, Poland. During World War II, what with allied bombing and the predations of the Red Army, which essentially destroyed the city and razed the Cathedral–just two days before the armistice ended the war!–the population went to great efforts to protect the painting. But after the war a priest who was also an art expert hired to restore the painting switched it with a forgery and made off with the original painting! It eventually fell into the hands of an anonymous Swiss collector who recently died, bequeathing it to his local church. Anyway, this was all uncovered just last March and the painting has been given back to Poland and installed in the rebuilt Cathedral. The whole tale reads like a novel and it’s summarized here: The History Blog » Blog Archive » Cranach Madonna stolen by priest returned to Poland.
Thanks to Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren for alerting me to all of this.
But just look at this painting:
And just look at this detail of the face of the Mother of Our Lord gazing down at her Son: