Last November we heard that more than 1,400 paintings, including works by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, missing since they were stolen by the Nazis in 1939, had been discovered in a flat belonging to the son of a Third Reich art dealer. Now, a new Hollywood film about the scale of Hitler’s looting has been released.

‘The Monuments Men’ highlights the hitherto little-known exploits of the unlikeliest of war heroes, a disparate group of curators, art historians, archaeologists, museum directors and academics, who risked their lives in order to rescue priceless works of art from the ruins of World War II. George Clooney plays Lt Frank Stokes, a clean-cut American officer and art historian who leads a team of fellow art experts in pursuit of art treasures looted by the Nazis. Clooney not only stars in the film, but directs it. “It just goes to prove that art theft is the unfinished business of World War II,” he claimed in a recent interview.

The film focuses on the rescue of two keys artworks; the ‘Madonna of Bruges’ sculpture by Michelangelo and Flemish artist Jan Van Eyck’s ‘Ghent Altarpiece’. However, between 1945 and 1951 the real ‘monuments men’ recovered and returned around five million stolen items including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrant and Johannes Vermeer.

We’re excited that this brave band of men and women are finally receiving some recognition for their work on the front line rescuing some of the greatest artistic achievements of civilization from destruction at the hands of Nazi fanatics. Who would have thought that art historians would be the subject of a Hollywood action film?

Image credits: Moviestore/REX