|Rose Antonia Maria Valland|
1 November 1898|
|Died||18 September 1980(aged 81)|
|Known for||Commission for the Recovery of Works of Art|
Commandeur of the Order of Arts and Letters;
Médaille de la Résistance;
Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit;
Medal of Freedom
Rose Antonia Maria Valland (1 November 1898 – 18 September 1980) was a French art historian, a member of the French Resistance, a captain in the French military, and one of the most decorated women in French history. She secretly recorded details of the Nazi plundering of National French and private Jewish-owned art from France.
World War II
Valland was born in Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, Isère, the daughter of a blacksmith. Like many gifted pupils from humble backgrounds, she received a scholarship in an école normale, a teacher school. She graduated in 1918, with the project of becoming art teacher. She studied art at the École nationale des beaux-arts de Lyon, graduating in 1922. Valland then toped the competitive exam for art teacher formation and underwent two years of training in the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, graduating 1925. Valland became then drawing teacher in high schools, but began to study art history in the école du Louvre and the university of Paris. She graduated in 1931 with a special diploma of the école du Louvre and engaged in graduate studies at the collège de France. In 1932, Valland became volunteer assistant curator at the Jeu de Paume Museum. In 1941, she was put in paid service and became the overseer of the Museum at the time of the German occupation of France during World War II. Through the "Special Staff for Pictorial Art" (Sonderstab Bildende Kunst) of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg für die Besetzen Gebiete (The Reich Leader Rosenberg Institute for the Occupied Territories), or ERR, the Germans began the systematic looting of artworks from museums and private art collections throughout France. They used the Jeu de Paume Museum as to their central storage and sorting depot pending distribution to various persons and places in Germany.
While the Nazi plundering was being carried out, Rose Valland began secretly recording as much as possible of the more than 20,000 pieces of art brought to the Jeu de Paume Museum. Valland kept it secret from the Germans that she understood German. In fact, she never formally studied this language, but some trips in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s had helped her to get a good grasp of a then widely used scholarly language. For four years she kept track of where and to whom in Germany the artworks were shipped and risked her life to provide information to the French Resistance and about railroad shipments of art so that they would not mistakenly blow up the trains loaded with France's priceless treasures. The museum was visited by high-ranking Nazi officials and Valland was there when Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring came on 3 May 1941 to personally select some of the priceless stolen paintings for his own private collection.
A few weeks before the Liberation of Paris, on 1 August 1944, Valland learned that the Germans were planning to ship out five last boxcars full of art, including many of the modern paintings which they had hitherto neglected. She notified her contacts in the Resistance, who prevented the train from leaving Paris. The train was subsequently liberated by the French Army.
Post World War II
Following the liberation of Paris by the Allied Forces, Rose Valland worked as a member of the "Commission for the Recovery of Works of Art" (Commission de Récupération Artistique). Valland was appointed a conservator of the French Musées Nationaux and in 1954 was named Chair of the "Commission for the Protection of Works of Art" (Chef du Service de protection des oeuvres d'art). In 1961, she wrote about her wartime experiences in a book published under the title, Le front de l'art (republished in 1997).
Rose Valland retired in 1968, but continued to work on restitution matters for the French archives. Her valor and dedication resulted in numerous awards from her own and other countries. From the French government she received the Légion d'honneur, was made a Commandeur of the Order of Arts and Letters and awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. Following its creation in 1951, she would receive the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. The United States awarded Valland the Medal of Freedom in 1951.
In popular culture
The 1964 John Frankenheimer film The Train was loosely based on her book, and includes a character named "Mlle Villard". Valland's role in preserving the stolen art was discussed as part of the book and documentary, The Rape of Europa.
In Sara Houghteling's novel, Pictures at an Exhibition (2009), the character of Rose Clément is based on Rose Valland.
- Alan Riding (2010). And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-26897-6.
- "On the Trail of Lost Art: A Conversation with Lynn H. Nicholas". Humanities, September/October 2000, Volume 22/Number 3. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
- The Memory of Rose Valland (French)
- "Rose Valland (1898 - 1980)", Monuments Men Foundation
- Photo of Edith Standen and Rose Valland with art to be restituted to France, 1946 May, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
- Artful Collaborators: James J. Rorimer and Rose Valland, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution