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More than 75 years after being looted by Nazi troops during World War Two, a stolen painting has been returned to its rightful home in Florence.

Vase of Flowers, valued at around 10 million euros, belongs to Pitti Palace and was one of boxes of artworks that were looted by soldiers in 1943.

On Friday it was returned to the place where it had previously hung more than a century, after a long judicial battle between Italy and Germany.

Director of the Uffizi Galleries Eike Schmidt appealed for the return of the 18th Century painting in January.

“I want to make a plea to Germany: we hope that in 2019 the famous Flower Vase by Dutch painter Jan van Huysum, stolen by Nazi soldiers during the Second World War, can finally be returned to the Uffizi Galleries in Florence,” he said in a statement at the time.

“Currently, the painting is owned by a German family that, after all this time, has not returned it to the museum yet, despite several requests from the Italian state.”

He also hung a black and white photo of Vase of Flowers, by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum, in the gallery, with the word "stolen" in English, German and Italian.

For 100 years, the canvas was exhibited in the gallery until in 1940 it was taken to the Medici villa in Poggio a Caiano and in 1943, for fear of looting, was hidden in the villa Bossi Pucci with other masterpieces.

Nazi troops stole thousands of artworks from Italian museums as they retreated through the country that year.

Many of them have been recovered but there are still 1,653 important works, paintings, tapestries, sculptures and Stradivarius violins that have not been, according to journalist and writer Salvatore Giannella who penned a book about looted art.

Some have been located and even exhibited in European museums but others have disappeared completely.

German newspaper Der Spiegel published a detailed article about the case, including a letter from German corporal Herbert Stock to his wife Magdalena in which he told her that he had "found" a picture of a vase with flowers that "would be very good with a golden frame" and that he sent it and wished that "it was to her liking".

Vase of Flowers reappeared in 1991, shortly after the German reunification.

Since then, Stock’s descendants have repeatedly tried to sell the painting.

The canvas was offered to Sotheby's auction house in London, which gave up the sale because of "the uncertain origin of the work".

The family's lawyers even contacted the Florentine museum to sell the painting for two million euros, but Italy rejected any negotiation.

“Various mediators have been trying to get in touch with Italian authorities asking for a ransom,” Schmidt said.

“So absurd a request that recently, after the last offensive proposal, Florence’s public prosecutor started an investigation: in fact, the painting is still owned by the Italian state, and therefore can be neither sold nor purchased.”

Finally, with mediation from the German government, the illegitimate owners of the painting agreed to its return.

Schmidt officially received Vase of Flowers during a solemn ceremony and he will now be able to remove the black and white copy and hang the original back in its rightful place, where it was hung for more than a century. EFE-EPA

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