Austrian town to return Klimt stolen by Nazis

25th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The original owner of the painting lost it when she was deported to a death camp in Lodz, Poland during the Second World War.

Vienna -- The Austrian town of Linz is to restore a painting by Gustav Klimt to the descendants of a Jewish family who were robbed of it by the Nazis, Mayor Franz Dobusch said Monday.

The large-format painting of a woman, estimated to be worth 15 million euros (19 million dollars), is currently in the town's collection.

The legal heir of Aranka Munk, wife of the industrialist who owned the painting, asked for its return in 2007. Munk owned the painting until she was deported to a camp in Lodz, Poland, where she died in 1941.

An independent expert called in by the town confirmed that the Nazis had indeed stolen it from her family, said Dobusch.

The expert, art historian Sophie Lillie, identified the work as a portrait of Ria Munk, Aranka Munk's daughter, which the family had commissioned along with two others in 1911.

The legal heir, who wished to remain anonymous, issued a statement welcoming the decision and thanking the local authorities.

"This decision proves that Linz is today aware of its historical responsibilities," said the heir's lawyer, Alfred J. Noll.

In 2006, a court of arbitration ordered Austria to return five works by Klimt on show in Vienna.

They included the celebrated 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which had been bought the same year in New York by the US cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder for a record 135 million dollars.

Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was criticised during his lifetime for what was seen at the time as the excessively sensual and erotic nature of his work.


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