This month, I am thinking of Rose Valland (1898-1980), art curator, who became one of the most highly-decorated women in European history. During Valland’s tenure at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris, the German occupying forces began to use the building to store over 20,000 artworks they had plundered from across Europe. Unbeknownst to them, Valland spoke German and was meticulously noting the details of each piece, and the Nazis’ intentions for it. She greeted Hermann Goering (with presumably gritted teeth) when he visited the museum in 1941 to select some pieces for his own collection. Valland was in close contact with the French Resistance, and informed them, at great personal risk, of which art-laden boxcars they should desist from attacking. When the ‘Monuments Men’ arrived in France, she assisted them greatly in the retrieval of much of the artwork. She was awarded the Legion of Honour in France, and the Medal of Freedom in the USA. Cate Blanchett’s character in the 2014 film ‘The Monuments Men’ is based upon Valland.

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