• gerard van weyenbergh

Nazi spoliations: restitution of 15 artworks?

Among these paintings and drawings is "Rosiers sous les arbres" by Gustav Klimt, kept at the Musée d'Orsay. It is the only work by the Austrian painter belonging to the national collections.

A bill relating to the restitution of 15 works of art, including a painting by Gustav Klimt and another by Marc Chagall, to the heirs of Jewish families looted by the Nazis will be examined by the French National Assembly on Tuesday.

Legally entered into the French national public collections by acquisition, they come under the public domain protected by the principle of imprescriptibility and inalienability. Therefore, their restitution requires a law, unlike works entrusted to the custody of national museums (“MNR”), which are returned by simple decree.

Among the 15 works is "Rosiers sous les arbres" by Gustav Klimt, kept at the Musée d'Orsay, and the only work by the Austrian painter belonging to the French national collections. Extensive research has established that it belonged to Austrian Éléonore Stiasny who sold it during a forced sale in Vienna in 1938, during the Anschluss, before being deported and murdered. It was acquired in 1980 by the State from a merchant.

Eleven drawings and a waxwork conserved at the Louvre Museum, the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée du Château de Compiègne as well as a painting by Utrillo conserved at the Musée Utrillo-Valadon ("Carrefour à Sannois") are also part of the considered restitutions. An amendment of January 13 added a painting by Chagall, entitled "The Father", kept at the Center Pompidou and entered the national collections in 1988. It was recognized as the property of David Cender, a Polish Jewish musician and luthier who immigrated to France in 1958 . The artist probably painted it in 1911 or 1912, if would been dispossessed of it before the Second World War then the painting would have circulated as far as Poland during the transfer of the Jews to the Lodz ghetto in 1940.

The Commission identified the beneficiaries for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS), created in 1999. The Cultural Affairs Committee unanimously adopted the bill. If Parliament adopts it, “it will be an important first step which leads to thinking about future restitutions and the possibility of a framework law”, specifies Fabienne Colboc (LREM), its investigator.

seen in Le Figaro