France to return Klimt masterpiece to Jewish heirs after it was ‘sold’ during the Nazi era

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 during the Nazi era, Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot said on Monday.

The original owner – Nora Stiasny, from a well-known Austrian Jewish family – had to sell the painting “Rosiers sous les Arbres” (“Rosebushes under the Trees”) at a knock-down price to survive financially after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, in Bachelot.

She was deported to Poland in 1942 and died the same year.

The art dealer, a Nazi sympathizer, held on to it until his death in the 1960s, and France, unaware of its history, eventually bought it at auction at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris in 1980, the minister added.

“This decision to return a large work of art from the public collections illustrates our commitment to justice and to the compensation of the plundered families,” Bachelot said.

Stiasny had inherited the painting from his uncle, the Austrian industrialist and art collector Viktor Zuckerkandl, who bought the work in 1911.

The restoration would acknowledge the crimes suffered by the Zuckerkandl and Stiasny families and return property belonging to them, Bachelot said.

“Rosiers sous les Arbres is a witness to the lives that a criminal endeavor has tried to make disappear,” she added.

( Jowharwith Reuters)