'Palace Stairs' changes hands (AP)
Radoslaw Sikorski, left, takes the painting 'Palace Stairs' from Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right. Photo by AP
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'Palace Stairs' by 18th-century Venetian artist Francesco Guardi. Photo by AP

Germany on Monday ceremoniously returned an 18th-century painting stolen from the National Museum of Poland, the BBC reports.

The painting, "Palace Stairs" by Francesco Guardi, had been looted from the National Museum of Warsaw early on during the Nazi occupation of Poland, in 1939.

The small picture shows noblemen talking at the grand stairs of Venice's Doge Palace.

After the war, the painting remained in Germany, at the Heidelberg University and then at the State Gallery of Baden-Wuerttemberg, according to the BBC. Apparently the painting sat there unnoticed, at least in the context of ill-gotten goods, until the 1990s.

“We are both very happy that after about 75 years this precious work of art will return to Poland, to the National Museum in Warsaw," said Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Poland's Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski in a joint statement.

Poland is still searching for thousands of artifacts looted from its museums and private collections during the war, although the Nazis are believed to have destroyed many of them,

While the painting was returned without strings attached, Germany hopes to be rewarded in the form of Poland returning some cultural treasures as well. Namely, things the Nazis moved to occupied Poland and stored there, including original scores by Beethoven, Bach and Mozart, which are part of a collection of 300,000 precious documents. Those have not lain unnoticed all these years but the already-fraught negotiations deadlocked in August 2007 and never did begin again.