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France votes for art stolen by Nazis to be returned to rightful owners

The collection includes pieces by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt and French artist Marc Chagall

A view of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris

The works set to be returned to their rightful owners include Rose Bushes Under Trees (1905) by Gustav Klimt, which has been held at the Musée d'Orsay as part of the national collection Pic: Olena Z / Shutterstock

Art in France that was stolen from Jewish homes by the Nazis should be returned to the families of the original owners, say French MPs who voted unananimously in favour of the move yesterday (January 25).

The law will finally see 15 works of art – including one piece by Gustav Klimt and another by Marc Chagall – restored to their Jewish family owners.

The Senate is now set to vote on the law on February 15.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot called the text “historic”, and said that the stolen art was “the denial of humanity [of these Jewish families], of their memory, and their memories”.

Many of the pieces are currently being held in French museums. This new law will acknowledge their original buyers as the rightful owners.

The 15 works include Rose Bushes Under Trees (1905) by Gustav Klimt, which has been held at Paris’  Musée d'Orsay, and is the only work by the Austrian painter to belong to a national collection in France. 

The museum acquired it in 1980 without knowing its history, but research found that it belonged to an Austrian Jewish woman, Eléonore Stiasny (also known as Nora), who gave it up during a forced sale in Vienna in 1938, before she was deported and killed in a Polish concentration camp.

Read more: France to return Klimt art taken by Nazis to owners' heirs 

The family formally requested the painting's return at the end of 2019.

The work is part of the national collection and protected under French law, so the government was required to pass this bill to enable the work to be returned.

Also in the list are one wax artwork and 11 drawings, which have been stored at the Musée du Louvre, Musée d'Orsay and the Musée du Château de Compiègne, as well as a piece by French painter Maurice Utrillo (Carrefour à Sannois, 1936-37), which has been stored at the Musée Utrillo-Valadon.

A piece by Marc Chagall, entitled Le Père (1922), which has been kept by the Centre Pompidou since 1988, also features. It has been identified as belonging to the Polish musician and violin maker David Cender, who immigrated to France in 1958.

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France to return Klimt art taken by Nazis to owners' heirs

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