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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 17:37 GMT
Klimt paintings to return to owner

Posters for the exhibition are all over Vienna
By Bethany Bell in Vienna

Two paintings by Gustav Klimt, sold during the Nazi era, should be returned to their rightful heir, an Austrian government committee has recommended.

The committee was set up to investigate works of art seized from Austrian Jews by the Nazis.

The artworks to be returned include Lady with Hat and Feather Boa, a showpiece of the Austrian State Belvedere Museum in Vienna

It is thought to be worth about $9m.

Klimt's striking portrait of a woman with red gold hair in a blue hat and black feather boa is currently on display all over the city, on a poster for a highly-acclaimed exhibition of the early 20th century Austrian artist's work.

'Emergency sale'

The exhibition runs to the middle of January and may be the last time the picture will be on view at the gallery.

swastika
The committee has said the former Jewish owner of the Klimt portrait and a second painting, Farmhouse with Birches, was forced to sell the pictures in 1939 to enable her family to flee the country following Austria's annexation by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

After the Second World War, the paintings were incorporated into the Belvedere gallery. The committee said the sale, at well below market value, was obviously an emergency measure and was invalid.

The Culture Minister, Elisabeth Gehrer, is expected to confirm the return of the paintings to the heirs of the art collector, Hermine Lasus.

Five other paintings by Gustav Klimt are currently the subject of a lawsuit between the Republic of Austria and the heirs of the Bloch-Bauer family.

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See also:

21 Oct 00 | Europe
Nazi loot is won back
17 Feb 00 | UK
Hope for Nazi loot victims
04 Jun 99 | UK
Stolen Nazi art returned
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