Legal Law

France restitutes Klimt painting “Roses under trees”

France wants to return the Klimt painting “Roses under Trees”, which was stolen by the Nazis and currently kept in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, from the possession of the Jewish Austrian Nora Stiasny to her relatives. France’s Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin announced on Monday. For the State Secretary for Culture Andrea Mayer (Greens) the decision is “the result of the excellent cooperation between the Austrian and French authorities”.

The decision to return it was difficult, especially since the painting is the only work by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) in France’s possession. “But this decision is necessary, inevitable,” said Bachelot-Narquin. The work, which was forcibly sold in Austria in August 1938, could not yet be handed over to Stiasny’s bereaved relatives because it was part of the state collection, as the minister said. A draft law should enable publication soon. According to the Musée d’Orsay, “Roses under Trees” was created around 1905. The museum came into possession of the painting in the 1980s.

The lawyer of Stiasny’s bereaved, Alfred Noll, expressed his thanks for the decision to return the property. Here is acted morally and historically responsible. Ruth Pleyer, who works as a provenance researcher on Klimt in Vienna and accompanies the relatives, called the decision an “extraordinary gesture”; for the family it was a miracle.

According to the Austrian State Secretariat for Art and Culture, the recommendation was preceded by years of discussion, which could also have an impact on the earlier restitution of Klimt’s painting “Apple Tree II”. In 2001, the heirs to Nora Stiasny were awarded the Klimt painting “Apple Tree II” from the Belvedere by the Republic. As a result of the circumstances surrounding the identity of the painting, which were not fully clarified, the heirs issued a declaration of liability when the painting was handed over in November 2001, with which they undertook, among other things, to return the painting to the federal government, should it emerge that this did not begin with the 1938 painting owned by Nora Stiasny is identical.

In 2017, the Art Restitution Advisory Board came to the conclusion that this restitution had been confused. Rather, there is a “high probability” that the painting “Roses under Trees” should be viewed as the former property of Nora Stiasny. The French decision now confirms this view. “What effects the French decision has on any claims against the heirs to Nora Stiasny will have to be examined in any case,” said a broadcast by the State Secretariat.

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