Two paintings confiscated by the Nazis from a Jewish family in Vienna have been returned to its heirs following two years of negotiations.
The London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe announced Wednesday that a work by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein (1788-1868) was delivered by the Dresden Gemaldegalerie museum to London to be given to the heirs of the Rosauer family in Vienna. Another work, by Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder (1751-1830), was returned to the family in late 2010. It had been in the custody of the German government.
“We are very pleased that both the government and the museum returned the paintings,” Anne Webber, co-chair of the commission, told JTA Wednesday. “The process in both cases took longer than might have been expected, and we hope that one of the changes that might result from this is that [there will be] clear claims procedures that set out the framework of the process.”
The works were among 160 that belonged to three sisters, Malvine, Eugenie and Bertha Rosauer. Forced by their brother to remain unmarried, the sisters lived together in an apartment in Vienna.
Malvine died there in 1940 and the two younger sisters were murdered in Treblinka in 1942. Of the entire family left in Vienna, only one great-nephew, the late Rudolf Epstein, survived. He had managed to save a watercolor painting of the family’s home, in which many of the artworks were portrayed. The only other evidence is a list of property that the sisters had to provide to the Nazis.
Painstaking detective work revealed that the two now-restituted paintings were among the works that ended up in the hands of Hitler’s art dealer, Julius Bohler of Munich. They changed hands several times before settling in the Dresden museum. Negotiations for their return began in 2009.
Webber told JTA that clues have been found and now other works are being traced as well.
“Uncle Rudy said these paintings were stolen from my uncle and aunts, and when the time is right you must look for them,” Susan Freeman, who was born in Vienna in 1936, told JTA. She and her parents fled to England in 1938.
“This is the first homecoming, and it was such an emotional moment to feel that the aunts were there,” Freeman said. “Rudy would have been over the moon.”