The "Monuments Men," were a group of approximately 345 men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created MFAA section during World War II. Many had expertise as museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects, and educators. Their job description was simple: to protect cultural treasures so far as war allowed.
From a newspaper report dated 13 December 2013: Police broke into the flat of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi art dealer who hoarded hundreds of works believed to have been looted by the Third Reich. Gurlitt has been the focus of huge media attention after a trove of over 1,400 previously unknown masterpieces were uncovered in his München flat. A task force appointed to research the origin of the art has said that around 590 pictures fall into the category of art looted or extorted by the Nazis from Jewish collectors. These include pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, Paul Cézanne and others.
Originally slated for a December 2013 release, with an awards/holiday season aim. In a rare move, Director George Clooney asked the studio for more time for post-production due to the visual effects not being ready, knowing this would make it very unlikely to receive awards attention (uncommon for an early-year release). Reluctantly, the studio pushed it out to the following February.
Leaked e-mails between director/writer/producer/actor George Clooney and Sony Pictures chairwoman Amy Pascal reveal that Clooney was extremely worried over the job he did on the movie when it got some bad reviews. He even apologized to Pascal.
Some viewers incorrectly assumed that it would be unlikely, if not impossible, for the German soldier who holds Savitz at gunpoint to have been familiar with John Wayne. While it is true that Germans had very limited access to American films during the war, Wayne had been working steadily in Hollywood movies since long before that rule was in place. Furthermore, even if the German soldier didn't know about John Wayne through actually seeing his movies, historians know from many contemporary historical accounts (including Anne Frank's autobiography The Diary of a Young Girl) that Germans were a huge audience for movie magazines and Hollywood gossip publications, so the young man might have read about John Wayne in those.
Some British troops in Monuments Men wore the "Turtle" helmet more closely associated with the British Army of the 1960s. This would seem to be an error, especially since wartime newsreels and movies about World War II showed British soldiers wearing the more familiar Brodie helmet. However, the Turtle was in fact first issued in 1944, and since the action of the film took place in 1945, George Clooney is correct in using it in the film.
The sculpture found in the Castles courtyard is The Burghers of Calais by Rodin.This piece is now on display in The Metropolitan Art Museum NYC. Matt Damon's character who first sees the piece is a former director of The Met.
The opening scene shows several details of the Ghent Altarpiece (aka The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb): The Almighty, The Lamb, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. Art scholars are still discussing whether the Van Eyck brothers wanted to depict God, Christ, both or even the Holy Trinity in the central "Almighty" figure.
Bill Murray and John Goodman both played real-life politicians who were at odds with each other in real-life; Murray as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in Hyde Park on Hudson (2012), and Goodman as Senator Huey P. Long, in Kingfish: The Story of Huey P. Long (1995).
The character of Claire Simone appears to have been based on Rose Valland, a Parisian museum curator who was drafted by the Nazis during the occupation of Paris to assist with art acquisitions. As depicted in this film and in the documentary The Rape of Europa (2006), Valland secretly kept a detailed ledger of all works that passed through Nazi hands, the original (often Jewish) owner of each work, and the location in Germany where each item was eventually transported.
When Sam Epstein finds the lost Rembrandt van Rijn self-portrait from c. 1645, his face is lit with a Rembrandt style (a key light coming from a side of the frame creates a chiaroscuro marking a small triangle on the cheek not receiving the light directly.)
As mentioned in the jail scene between James and Claire, the office in Paris where the Nazis amass their stolen art was the Galerie du Jeu de Paume, located next to Place de la Concorde in the heart of the city. The real Hermann Göring visited the museum 20 times during the war and cherry-picked over 700 items for his private collection.