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Valland, Rose

    Full Name: Valland, Rose Antonia Maria

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 01 November 1898

    Date Died: 18 September 1980

    Place Born: Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

    Place Died: Ris-Orangis, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): French (culture or style), German (culture, style, period), National Socialism, painting (visual works), and twentieth century (dates CE)

    Institution(s): Jeu de Paume Museum


    Art representative for the Commission de Récupération Artistique after World War Two; French art curator at the Louvre. Valland was born to Francisque Valland, a mechanic, and Rose Maria Viardin in a small province in southeastern France. Encouraged to study by her mother, Valland received a scholarship from the École Normale d’Institutrices de Grenoble and graduated in 1918 with a teaching degree. She then earned diplomas from the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon in 1922 and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1925. While taking classes at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and studying under Byzantium historian Gabriel Millet, Valland penned Aquilée et les origines byzantines de la Renaissance and secured her École Pratique des Hautes Études diploma. In 1931, Valland wrote on the evolution of Italian art until Giotto, earning a special diploma from the École du Louvre. Valland finished her studies at the Institut d’art et d’archéologie de l’Université de Paris and Art and accumulated certificates in history of modern art, medieval archeology, and greek architecture. Due to her extensive education, Valland was honored with a special license in the history of art and archeology.

    While pursuing her academic career, Valland simultaneously worked as an art teacher to support herself. Unlike most art volunteers and academics at the time, Valland did not come from wealth. In 1932, Valland began her career as an unpaid volunteer at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris. When the museum curator André Dézzarrois fell ill in late September 1938, Valland assumed charge of the museum and was officially promoted to assistant curator (a position which she had held for two years). When French defeat by the German seemed imminent, the Director of French National Museums, Jacque Jaujard, asked Valland to stay at the Jeu de Paume to spy on the Nazis during their occupation of France. Valland was quiet, intelligent, and modest— all key traits that quickly dismissed her as a threat and would serve her well during the Nazi Occupation of France. From October 1940 until the American liberation of Paris in late August 1944, Rose Valland was the only French citizen at the Jeu de Paume. During these four years, Valland took copious notes and used her demure presence and appearance to record German conversations— a language that the Nazis did not know she spoke. Drawing portraits, speaking with German-contracted truck drivers, and noting where famous artworks were sent, Valland was dismissed four times and caught understanding German twice. Yet, Valland was able to regain her job each time. Valland used her position to get insight into Nazi movements including recording Hermann Goring’s frequent visits to the Jeu de Paume to choose art for Hitler’s Fuhremuseum and home and himself.

    In late August 1944, American soldiers liberated Paris and began to search for its missing artworks. As Valland only trusted Jaujard, she did not initially confide in Captain James Rorimer (later to be Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), who spearheaded the recovery efforts of French art. Being wary himself, Captain Rorimer and Valland began trusting one another after Valland led him to 148 crates of impressionist paintings leaving Europe. When Captain Rorimer succeeded in recovering these artworks, Valland revealed the Nazi hiding places for tens of thousands of artifacts and artworks, including thousands hidden in the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and Austria’s Altaussee salt mine. Without Valland’s help, many of these artworks might never have been found— especially since the Altaussee salt mine was booby-trapped with explosives.

    On May 4, 1945, Valland joined the French First Army as an artistic representative for the Commission de Récupération Artistique, traveling across Europe to find stolen artworks. After Valland’s time in the French Army, she returned to France where she became the conservator of Musées Nationaux, a collection of French-owned museums. In 1954, she was named Chair of Chef du Service de protection des oeuvres d’art and published her biography The Front de L’Art in 1961. Including almost no personal information, Valland’s biography highlights her efforts during the Nazi occupation of Germany while ignoring her personal life. While never directly confirmed by Valland, it is believed that Joyce Heer, (1917-1977), a British Ph.D, working in the American Embassy, and her were long-time partners. In 1968, Valland retired from the Louvre but continued to be active in the art community. When Heer died in 1977, Valland lost her “joie de vivre” (Schwartz). She died on September 18th, 1980 in Ris-Orangis, France and was buried with partner Heer in her family crypt.

    Valland is honored by countless books and movies, notably the book Art of the defeat: France 190-1944 and the movies The Train (1964) and The Monuments Men (2014), where she was played by Cate Blanchett. In 1948, the United States awarded her the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by Germany’s honor of “Officer Cross of the Order of Merit” in 1951. After working for over twenty years, in 1953 Valland was finally awarded the esteemed title of curator by France. As of now, Valland’s detailed notes and portraits have led to over 60,000 distinctive pieces of art being found.

    Selected Bibliography

    • L’art suisse contemporain, depuis Hodler (peinture et sculpture): exposition … Musée des Écoles Étrangères Contemporaines, Jeu de Paume des Tuileries 1er février – 1er mars 1934. Paris: Musée des Écoles Étrangères Contemporaines, 1934;
    • La mostra d’arte italiana dell’ 800 e 900 al “Jeu de Paume” nella stampa francese. [s.l.]: Comitato Italia-Francia, 1935;
    • Le front de l’art; défense des collections françaises, 1939-1945. Paris: Plon, 1961;
    • Aquilée et les origines byzantines de la Renaissance. Paris: De Boccard, 1963.


    • Heit, Judi. “Rose Valland (1898-1980).” Heroines of the Resistance, September 3, 2015,;
    • “Rose Valland, 30 Ans En 1928.” Histoires d’universités. Le blog de Pierre Dubois, March 9, 2019;
    • Schwartz, Claire. “Saving a Bit of Beauty for the World: Retelling the Story of Rose Valland.” Confluence. Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs, 2016;
    • Dagen, Philippe. “Rose Valland, Une Femme Discrète Témoin Des Spoliations Nazies.” Le Monde., December 17, 2009;
    • “ROSE VALLAND ET LA SAUVEGARDE DES ŒUVRES JUIVES.” Concours National de la Résistance et de la Déportation (website)(CNRD), 2016;
    • Deprez, Guillaume. “Rose Valland: Art Historian Turned Spy To Save Art From Nazis.” The Collector, August 4, 2020;
    • “Valland, Capt. Rose: Monuments Men Foundation.” Monuments Men Foundation. Monuments Men Foundation For the Preservation of Art. Accessed November 10, 2020.


    Musées Nationaux Récupération (MNR), ministère de la Culture et de la Communication.

    Contributors: Eleanor Ross


    Eleanor Ross. "Valland, Rose." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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