france info: Nazi spoliations: unanimously, the Parliament votes the restitution of fifteen artworks

[This is an English translation of the original French Article “Spoliations nazies : unanime, le Parlement vote la restitution de quinze œuvres d’art” published on franceinfo: on February 15, 2022.]


Posted on 02/15/2022 22:01 Update on 02/15/2022 22:04 Reading time: 1 min.
The Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot in front of Gustav Klimt’s painting, “Rosiers under the trees”, one of the works stolen by the Nazis which will be returned to its heirs, March 15, 2021. (ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

Fifteen works, including paintings by Gustav Klimt and Marc Chagall, will be able to be returned to the heirs of Jewish families looted by the Nazis . Unanimous, the Parliament authorized Tuesday evening February 15 this return, via a bill which wants to be “historic” .

After the National Assembly unanimously on January 25, the Senate dominated by the right validated this text by a show of hands, to the applause of these heirs or their representatives present in the gallery.

The Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot welcomed a “historic” law by which, for the first time in seventy years, “a government is taking steps to allow the restitution of works from public collections looted during the Second World War or acquired in troubled conditions during the Occupation, due to anti-Semitic persecutions” . A bill was needed to derogate from the principle of inalienability of public collections.

Most of the rights holders identified

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

Eleven drawings and a waxwork preserved at the Louvre Museum, the Orsay Museum and the Museum of the Château de Compiègne, as well as a painting by Utrillo preserved at the Utrillo-Valadon Museum ( Carrefour in Sannois ), are also part of the planned restitutions .

For 13 of the 15 works, the beneficiaries were identified by the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS), created in 1999.