Painting looted by Nazis fetches $1.17 million for SoCal heir

1945 31 May 2006

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - An Albin Egger-Lienz painting that the Nazis once seized from its original owner fetched a record $1.17 million at an auction in Vienna, with the proceeds to go to an heir in Southern California.

"Totentanz 1809," or "Dance of Death 1809," was auctioned off Tuesday evening at Vienna's Dorotheum, where a spokeswoman said only that an Austrian man in his 40s was the highest bidder. His name was not released.

The proceeds will go to Herta Fox of Los Angeles, a descendant of the Austrian Jewish family who owned the work before the Nazis confiscated it during World War II. The painting resurfaced after the war and ended up in the collection of a museum in the southwestern city of Lienz, where officials agreed to return it.

The painting was the latest by a famed Austrian artist to be restored in recent months under a 1998 restitution law mandating the return of art looted by the Nazis from owners, most of whom were Jewish.

In January, an arbitration court ordered Vienna's Belvedere Gallery to return five paintings by Gustav Klimt with an estimated value of $300 million to Maria Altmann of Beverly Hills.
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