Art Law Report

Vienna Natural History Museum Restitutes Botanical Drawings to Nazi Victims' Heirs, Acknowledges the Too-Often-Ignored Reality of Persecution and Coerced Sales

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 6, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Vienna’s Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) has restituted 177 botanical drawings and prints to the heirs of Dr. Ernst Moritz Kronfeld. The restitution, while somewhat delayed following a 2011 recommendation by Austria’s Advisory Council under the country’s Law for the Restitution of Artworks from the Austrian National Museums (Bundesgesetz über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenstände aus den Österreichischen Bundesmuseen), highlights the increasing sophistication of that Advisory Council, particularly compared to recent steps backward by the Limbach Commission in Germany. Austria, once a lightening rod for criticism about confronting wartime and Nazi provenance issues, returned these drawings because of the clear problems with trying to portray any 1941 conveyance by a Viennese Jew as an arms’ length transaction—even without direct evidence of coercion. Just as importantly, it brushed away the defense that the drawings had been acquired in good faith as an excuse to continued possession, a dramatic change from the perspective usually taken by civil law countries.

Read More

Topics: Theresienstadt, Lvov, Nationalbibliothek, Galicia, Law for the Restitution of Artworks from the Austr, Germany, Nuremberg, Nazi Victims, Treblinka, Dr. Rudolf Engel, Naturhistorisches Museum, Henry David Thoreau, Hermann Goring, Hitler Youth, Mario Lanzer, Gauleiter, Dr. Ernst Moritz Kronfeld, National Library, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Bundesgesetz über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenständ, Restitution, Clara Levy, Hapsburg, Luxembourg, Vienna Natural History Museum, Ryk van der Schot, Empress Maria Theresia, World War II, The Three Graces, Franz Stefan von Lothringen, Lemberg, Ukraine, Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquinn, Rosalia Kronfeld, Austro-Hungarian empire, Drei Grazien, Lovis Corinth, Museums, Israeli Cultural Society, Austria’s Advisory Council, Gustav Klimt, Schönbrunn, Vienna, Anschluss, Welfenschatz, Baldur von Schirach, Limbach Commission

Limbach Advisory Commission Recommends Against German Restitution of “Guelph Treasure,” Focuses on Terms of 1929 Agreement for Intended Sale

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 26, 2014 at 11:54 AM

One of the issues exposed and exacerbated by the ongoing Gurlitt collection stalemate is the question of Germany’s restitution procedures with respect to art. As the Bavarian legislative proposal to abolish the statute of limitations for claims against bad-faith acquirers is considered by the Bundestag, the “German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property” has issued a decision over what has become known as the “Guelph Treasure” (Welfenschatz) in the collection of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The March 20, 2014 opinion (available, so far as I know, only in German at this point at www.lostart.de) underscores the issues around claims of sales under duress, and the appropriate present-day procedural remedy. Readers should also brush up on their medieval German history to keep up.

Read More

Topics: Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, German Supreme Commercial Court, Holy Roman Empire, Guelph Treasure, Bundeshandelsgericht, German Supreme Constitutional Court, Z.M. Hackenbroch, Karl Blechen, Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Niedersachsen, Karl Ernst Baumann, Act of State, Kingdom of Hanover. Königreich Hannover, Dr Alexander Lewin, Prussia, Lower Saxony, Anselm Feuerbach, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Preussen, Hans Sachs, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Hessen, Fogg Art Museum, Congress of Vienna, Julius and Clara Freund, Kurhannover, Dresdner Bank, Hermann Goring, Austrian Supreme Court, Johann J. August von der Embde, House of Welf, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Wilhelm Leibl, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Harvard, Portrait der Familie von Dithfurth, Gurlitt, Restitution, George I, J.S. Goldschmidt, World War II, Peasant Girl without a Hat and with a White Headcl, Queen Victoria, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, Kurfürsten, Jutta Limbach, www.lostart.de, Soviet Union, Gustav Klimt, Bundesverfassungsgericht, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, I. Rosenbaum, Electors

Recap of Ersessene Kunst—Der Fall Gurlitt (Appropriated Art—The Gurlitt Case): January 26, 2014 in Heidelberg

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 28, 2014 at 9:24 AM

I’ve just returned from my presentation in Heidelberg at the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien in Heidelberg at the conference Ersessene Kunst—Der Fall Gurlitt; Appropriated Art—The Gurlitt Case. The presentations were, without exception, outstanding. They ranged from rarely-told case stories, to sharp insights of some of the overarching principles that guide the the Gurlitt case and similar events. As the discussions made clear, this case will not be easily resolved. That in turn makes recent reports that Cornelius Gurlitt has indicated a willingess to discuss the art's return all the more significant.

Read More

Topics: Maria Altmann, Leopold Reidemester, Ministerin für Justiz und Kultur, Stuttgart, Das Alte Schauspielhaus, Cologne, Irina Alter, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, veschollene Kunst, Focus, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Aschbach Castle, Mussolini, Wiedergutmachung, Annette Weber, Monte Cassino, Cornelius Gurlitt, Corinna Budras, S. Lane Faison, Breslau, Universität Heidelberg, Augsburg, Aryanization, Anat Feinberg, Willi Korte, Schwabinger Kunstfund. Kunstfund München, Monuments Man, Jud Süss, Wrocław, Dresden, Gurlitt Task Force, Germany, Silesia, Fall Gurlitt, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Köln, Nazi-looted art, Henry Keazor, Gurlitt Collection, Appropriated Art the Gurlitt Case, Schloss Aschbach, Die Welt, Kurpfälzische Museum Heidelberg, Hochschule für Judische Studien Heidelberg, Karl Haberstock, Eberhard Karls-Universität Tübingen, Emily Löffler, CSU, Williams College, Hildebrand Gurlit, Entartete Kunst, Universität Zürich, Arisierung, Lehrstuhl für Römisches Recht und Privatrecht, Württemberg, Schlesien, Nürnberger Institut, Hamburg, Otto Förster, Rückgabe, Beutekunst, 'Stürmer-Bibliothek', Magdeburg, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Ersessene Kunst, Katja Terlau, Art Loss Recovery Unit, Jim Tobias, Hermitage, Gurlitt, Bavaria, Johannes Heil, Wien, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Lucas Elmenhorst, Events, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Nürnberg, Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt, Looted Art, „Sturmer-Library“, degenerate art, Seminar für Neuere Geschichte, Wolfgang Ernst, Justizminister, Göring, www.lostart.de, Nazi art, Raubkunst, Nicholas M. O'Donnell, Frieder Hepp, Verjährung, Vienna, Claudius Krausharr, Münchner Kunstfund, Zwickau, Kajetan Mühlmann, New York, Werner Haftmann, FAZ Frankfurt, Felicitas Heiman-Jellinek

Dispute Over "Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl" on Loan to National Gallery—Calls for Restitution Put International Respect for Final Judicial Awards, Other Claims, at Risk

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 30, 2013 at 7:09 AM

A recent loan to the National Gallery in London has grabbed headlines discussing the history of the painting, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, by Gustav Klimt, surrounding World War II and the persecution of Jews in Austria. Somewhat puzzlingly, the coverage has downplayed the fact that that very painting was already the subjective of an exhaustive proceeding in Austria that denied restitution, a decision reviewed and affirmed by the Austrian Supreme Court (though, apparently, also the subject of more recent requests for reconsideration). Should a claim for restitution or seizure be filed while the painting is outside Austria, in the UK or the US, it could have a troubling effect on respect for final judgments, as well as unintended consequences for restitution claimants who may find their judgments collaterally attacked elsewhere. As difficult as it may seem, the painting cannot be disturbed without putting a great deal more at risk.

Read More

Topics: Maria Altmann, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Jonathan Jones, National Gallery London, the Guardian, Vita Künstler, Dr. Erich Führer, Beethoven Frieze, Belvedere, the United Nations Convention on the Recognition a, Jugendstil, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Hermine Müller-Hofmann, Amalie Zuckerkandl, Restitution, Neue Galerie, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna in 1900, Kokoschka, Secession, Secession Museum, Austria, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, Fin de siècle, Gustav Klimt, Vienna, Anschluss, UNCITRAL

About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities.

Meet the Editor

Learn more about our Art & Museum Law practice

Subscribe to Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all