United States: three works of art suspected of having been stolen by the Nazis seized from museums

Three works by the Austrian artist Egon Schiele claimed by the heirs of their former owner, a collector and Jewish artist victim of the Naziswere seized by American justice in major museums in the United States, we learned Thursday from a judicial source, confirming information from the New York Times.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office filed criminal charges against museums in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois in an effort to recover artworks they possess by Egon Schiele that law enforcement officials said were stolen in the Nazi era. https://t.co/m8wsvg0rAu

— New York Times Arts (@nytimesarts) September 14, 2023

In seizure orders dated Tuesday, and of which AFP was aware, the Supreme Court of the State of New York considers that “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that these drawings by the Austrian expressionist artist “ are stolen” and “illegally detained”.

Watercolors and pencil drawings

“Russian Prisoner of War” (1916), a watercolor and pencil on paper worth $1.25 million, was seized from the Art Institute of Chicago; “Portrait of a Man” (1917), a pencil-on-paper drawing worth $1 million, was seized from the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“Girl with Black Hair” (1911), a watercolor and pencil on paper worth $1.5 million, was seized from the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin University (Northeast, Ohio) . The orders specify that works can remain “on site” for a period of 60 days.

Museums deny accusations

“We are confident that Oberlin University has legally acquired Black haired girl by Egon Schiele in 1958, and that we possess it legally,” responded Oberlin University in a press release sent to AFP, adding to cooperate with the investigation.

The “Russian Prisoner of War” work “remains in our custody at the museum at this time,” the Chicago museum said. “We are convinced that we have legally acquired this work and that we legally possess it,” added the museum, saying it wanted to defend itself in the context of “a civil dispute (open) in federal court.”

The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh have ured that they want to cooperate with the authorities.

The fight of a lifetime

The restitution of works of art is the fight led by many descendants of victims of the Second World War. In March 2023, a museum at the British University of Cambridge was returned to the descendants of its owner a painting by Gustave Courbet “The Childish Round”, which was robbed in 1941 by the Nazis in Paris.

In 2021, 77 years after the flight, a 17th century painting by Nicolas Poussinstolen from its owners in Poitiers in 1944 by the Nazis, was found in Italy and returned to its owners.

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