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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 05:36 GMT 06:36 UK
'Looted' painting fetches 11.3m
Auctioneer Guy Jennings takes bids for Landscape at Krumau, by Austrian expressionist painter Egon Schiele, at Southebys
The painting had been seized by the Gestapo
A rare painting by Austrian artist Egon Schiele has sold for 11.3m at auction in London.

The 1916 landscape went under the hammer at Sotheby's on Monday in an auction which also saw a piece by Paul Gauguin sold for 6.8m.

An anonymous telephone bidder who made the highest offer for the Schiele will pay more than 12.66m once the buyer's premium is included - a record auction sale for the artist and the most expensive restituted impressionist work ever sold at an auction.

Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale raised more than 37m after the sale of an impressive line-up of works by other world famous artists such as Rene Magritte, Joan Miro and Henry Moore.

Pablo Picasso's Le Baiser sold for 2.55m, when it had been expected to fetch up to 1.8m.

Painting returned

Helena Newman, senior director of Sotheby's Europe, said the sale was a resounding success overall.

"Strong prices for Miro, Picasso, Gauguin, Magritte and many of the great names of the late 19th and 20th century art here sold well in excess of their estimates in the region of several millions of pounds," she told the BBC.

A landscape by Egon Schiele
It reflects its importance and also the current strength of the international art market for strong 20th century masterpieces
Helena Newman
Sotheby's Europe
The price for the Schiele was particularly impressive.

"This price of 12.6m tonight is a record price for the artist, it's far in excess of any price paid for Schiele at auction," she said.

The Schiele painting was stolen from the original Jewish owners by the Nazis in 1938.

But the painting was returned to the family at the end of last year.

The work Krumauer Landschaft (Stadt und Fluss), or View of Krumau, is of the small town on the banks of the Moldau River that was the home of Schiele's mother.

Its cheerful nature differs from the gloomy landscapes or skeletal human figures usually produced by Schiele.

Prices for work by Schiele, who died of the 1918 flu epidemic aged 28, have been growing over the past decade.

Ten years ago, one of the artist's landscapes sold for more than $9m (5.7m) in New York.

Two years ago, Sotheby's London auctioned an early Schiele portrait for 7.7m.

Property confiscated

The 1916 painting was seized by the Gestapo from the Viennese home of Wilhelm and Daisy Hellmann when the couple fled in 1938.

Four years later it was sold to a Berlin collector by a Viennese auction house who sold his collection to the city of Linz in 1953.

The city's museum did not know the work had been taken by the Nazis and was not legally bound to give it to the Hellmann's heirs.

But Linz city officials returned the work in recognition of the rights of victims of the Nazi regime and the rights of victims' heirs.

During the Third Reich, the Nazis confiscated and destroyed nearly all synagogues and other Jewish community property in Austria.

The Schiele landscape was on show last month at Sotheby's New York.

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