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Musee dOrsay gives back only Klimt to Jewish owners
A section of Rose Bushes Under the Trees by Gustav Klimt (1905) Pic: Wikimedia Commons

16 Mar 2021 / global Print

Musée d'Orsay gives back only Klimt to Jewish owners

A painting by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (small picture) will be returned to the heirs of the Jewish family that was forced to sell it by the Nazis.

The French State bought the art at auction for the Musée d'Orsay in 1980, its only work by Klimt, without cognisance of its dark history.

The French government will now have to pass a special bill to allow the work to be released from the national collection.

Crimes

French culture minister Roselyne Bachelot has said that returning the art to its rightful owners acknowledges the crimes they suffered.

The painting is a witness to the "broken lives" of the Nazi era, she added.

The pre-war owner of Rosiers sous les Arbres (Rose Bushes Under the Trees) was Nora Stiasny, from a well-known Austrian Jewish family.

Bachelot told a news conference at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, yesterday that Nora Stiasny had inherited the masterpiece from her uncle, the Austrian industrialist and art collector Viktor Zuckerkandl.

Forced sale

Nora Stiasny was forced to sell it in August 1938 for a fraction of its value, in order to survive financially, months after the Nazis annexed Austria, in the Anschluss.

In 1942 Nora Stiasny was deported to a concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, and died the same year.

The art dealer held on to the masterpiece until his death in the 1960s.

"Today we know that it is indeed a work that was looted in Austria in August 1938," the culture minister told the press yesterday.

"The decision we've taken is of course a difficult one. It results in taking a masterpiece out of the national collections which is the only painting by Gustav Klimt which France owned."

Necessary decision

"But this decision is necessary, essential. Eighty-three years after the forced sale of this painting by Nora Stiasny, this is the accomplishment of an act of justice."

The beneficiaries will be the descendants of Nora Stiasny's sister.

In 2017, a floral Gustav Klimt painting achieved a price of almost £48m at Sotheby's in London.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland