Tax authorities discover an Aladdin’s cave of stolen masterpieces in Munich.

Over 1,500 precious artworks confiscated by the Nazis have been found by tax investigators in the German city of Munich. The vast collection is made up of paintings stolen from Jewish collectors or confiscated as “degenerate” during the 1930s and 40s.

Among the largest cache of looted art ever recovered, the collection is believed to contain works by the likes of Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. The value of the works in question has been estimated as over one billion euros or around one and a half billion Australian dollars. At least 200 of the works have been the subject of international warrants for many years.

The artworks were apparently found by chance in 2011, when German tax authorities investigated Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a well-known Munich art dealer. The reclusive Gurlitt was suspected of tax evasion and the artworks were found when the tax office searched his home.

Gurlitt had apparently kept the priceless collection out of sight in darkened rooms, only occasionally selling a painting when he needed the money.

The collection is currently being held in a Munich warehouse for safekeeping.