France will return a masterpiece by Gustav Klimt to the heirs of its owner more than 80 years after she was forced to sell it in the Nazi era, Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said on Monday. She said the painting bore witness to the “broken lives” of the Nazi era.
The original owner – Nora Stiasny, from a well known Jewish family in Austria – had to sell the painting ‘Rosiers sous les Arbres’ at a knock-down price to survive financially after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, Bachelot said. Nora Stiasny had inherited it from her uncle, the Austrian industrialist and art collector Viktor Zuckerkandl. The art dealer, a Nazi sympathiser, held into it until his death and France, unaware of its history, eventually bought it at auction for its Musee d’Orsay in 1980, the minister added. Nora Stiasny was deported to Poland in 1942 and died the same year. The restitution would acknowledge the crimes suffered by the Zuckerkandl and Stiasny families and return a property that belongs to them, Bachelot said.
The beneficiaries will be the descendants of Nora Stiasny’s sister. The French government will have to pass a bill to allow it to be released from the national collection and returned to the family, Ms Bachelot added.