Austrian museum to return Schiele picture looted during Nazi era to owner

1945 14 February 2006

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - A painting by Austrian icon Egon Schiele looted during the Nazi era and now in the possession of a provincial museum will be returned to its owner, Austrian government officials said Monday.

The picture, Hafen von Triest (Trieste Harbour) is the sixth work by a famed Austrian artist to be returned in recent weeks under restitution laws mandating such action for art looted by the Nazis from predominantly Jewish owners.

A statement from the provincial government of Styria said the picture would be displayed at the Joanneum museum in Graz, the provincial capital, until its return. It offered no further details.

Last month, an arbitration court ruled that five paintings by Gustav Klimt - including one with an estimated value exceeding C100 million (US$120 million) - must be returned by the National Gallery in Vienna to Maria Altmann of California.

Austria's decision to give up those artworks represents its costliest concession since it began returning valuable art objects looted by the Nazis under the cultural property return law enacted in 1998.

Altmann, 89, a retired clothing boutique owner, was one of the heirs of the Jewish family that owned the paintings before the Nazis took over Austria in 1938.
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