'Nazi loot' is in major National Gallery show

Specialist in tracking of stolen artworks says curators must not return Klimt portrait to Austria

An unfinished portrait by Gustav Klimt used as the centrepiece of the National Gallery's major new exhibition is loot stolen by the Nazis, according to a leading expert. The painting of Amalie Zuckerkandl, which the Austrian was working on when he died in 1918, is the centrepiece of the museum's show Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna in 1900, which runs until January. It is on loan from the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, which received it as a gift from a private collector.

E Randol Schoenberg is a Los Angeles-based lawyer who specialises in the restitution of significant artwork and has won a number of high-profile cases relating to the recovery of stolen art, particularly during the Holocaust. He outlined his concerns about the over the Zuckerkandl painting last week.

"Gustav Klimt's beautiful unfinished portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, herself a Nazi victim, was owned by Amalie's friend, the Jewish sugar baron Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. In 1938, Ferdinand was forced to flee Austria, and survived the war in Zurich. He died in 1945. As he explained in his will, his 'entire property in Vienna [had been] confiscated and sold off'. His heirs never found the portrait."

Mr Schoenberg said the painting was still at Bloch-Bauer's home nine months after he fled, and that a Nazi inventory in 1939 listed the work. Dr Erich Führer, a lawyer and high-ranking SS officer, was initially hired by Bloch-Bauer to protect his property, but ultimately became the liquidator. According to Mr Schoenberg, he kept 12 of Bloch-Bauer's paintings, including a Klimt, for himself. Mr Schoenberg said: "No one knows exactly what Dr Führer did with the portrait, but Amalie's son-in-law supposedly came into possession of it during the war and sold it to the art dealer Vita Künstler. Vita held on to the painting for many years, donating it to the Austrian gallery when she died in 2001."

In 2006, an arbitration panel granted ownership of the Zuckerkandl portrait to the state, but a dispute over the decision continues.

In the same year, Mr Schoenberg successfully represented 90-year-old Maria Altmann in her effort to win back five stolen Klimt paintings from the state of Austria that had been seized by the Nazis, including his famous gold portrait of Bloch-Bauer's wife and Maria's aunt, Adele. It sold for $135m (£83.54m) later that year, with Mr Schoenberg reportedly earning $120m after the paintings were sold, having acted on a "no win, no fee" basis.

Mr Schoenberg concluded on his blog: "The portrait of Amalie is a Nazi-looted painting, wrongly withheld by the arbitration panel. Under Austrian law, as it is currently being interpreted, the painting would be returned to Ferdinand's heirs.

"Perhaps before the National Gallery returns the painting to the Austrian gallery, it should request a new determination by the Austrian art restitution advisory board. That way, this misappropriated painting can finally be returned."

A spokeswoman for the National Gallery said it had "both legal and ethical obligations to ensure a work can be borrowed for an exhibition" as well as international agreements with which it has to comply. She said: "Klimt's Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl is among those paintings in Facing the Modern for which the Government offers immunity from seizure. Therefore, the National Gallery has been obliged to investigate the history of these paintings."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor