The mayor of the Austrian city of Linz issued a recommendation today that the city’s prized cultural treasure, a Klimt portrait, should be restituted. The city council meets in June to decide. The change came when a man who was nine in 1942 swore an affadavit identifying the painting as property seized by the Nazis:
The painting, which hangs in the city’s Lentos Museum, is of Ria Munk, who committed suicide in 1911 at the age of 24 because of an unhappy love affair. Her mother, Aranka Munk, asked Klimt to paint her posthumously, which he did, three times. Linz authorities had previously argued there was no proof to back up the heirs’ claim that the Lentos portrait was the one seized by the Nazis from Munk’s villa in Bad Aussee. [ . . . ] “There is no complete certainty” that the painting is the same one, Erich Wolny, a Linz city official, said by telephone. “But there are strong indications that it was looted, and that is enough to warrant restitution.”
The portrait was one of dozens of Klimt paintings owned by the extended family: Aranka Munk’s sister Serena Lederer owned the largest private collection of Klimt’s works, most of which were destroyed by the Nazis in the final days of World War II.
“It is deeply gratifying to see the restoration of this family portrait,” the heirs of the Munk family, who declined to be identified by name, said in a joint statement released by their Vienna lawyer, Alfred Noll. “We thank the city of Linz for its commitment to justice.”
The heirs, descendants of Munk’s sisters, are scattered around the world, in Vienna, Germany, the U.S., the U.K. and Belgium.