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Sat Nov 28 22:13:36 SAST 2015

Jewish family wants Austria to return Klimt 'national treasure' painting

Sapa | 16 October, 2013 13:45
Visitors look at Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, one of the country's most famous artworks, at the Secession museum in Vienna October 16, 2013. Austria is ready to return the artwork to heirs of its former owners if a review supports their claim they were forced to sell it at a knock-down price, the government said on Wednesday. The case, which will test Austria's laws on restitution of looted art, centres on the Lederer family, Jews who fled to Switzerland when Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938 and seized the family's extensive art collection.

A Jewish family is asking Austria to restitute the Beethoven Frieze, a painting by Gustav Klimt that is considered a national treasure, the family's lawyer confirmed Wednesday.

The National Socialists dispossessed the Lederer family in 1938 and took control of the large mural produced by the artist in 1902, according to the Secession gallery in Vienna, where the frieze is displayed.

The family's Zurich-based lawyer Marc Weber said he had filed a request for the painting at the Culture Ministry in Vienna on Tuesday.

After the war, Austria returned ownership of the artwork to the family, but did not allow it to be shipped out to Switzerland, to where family heir Erich Lederer had moved.

For that reason, Lederer decided to sell it again to the Republic of Austria.

The frieze is a key example of the Jugendstil art epoch. It is an allegorical depiction of Beethoven's 9th symphony.

Works by Klimt rank among the most valuable paintings in the world.

His portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer was sold for 135 million dollars in 2006, according to media reports.


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