Vienna museum to return 2 Nazi-looted Schiele paintings

(JTA) – A Vienna museum will return two Nazi-looted works by Egon Schiele to the heiress of its owner and keep three others.

The agreement announced Thursday between the Leopold Museum and the Jewish community of Vienna, which represented the heiress, ends 20 years of efforts to resolve the dispute.

“It puts an end to years of conflict while allowing both parties to save face,” Austrian Culture Minister Josef Ostermayer told reporters in the Austrian capital.

Eva Zirkl, 95, of New York, is the heiress of Jewish businessman and art collector Karl Maylaender, who was deported by the Nazis from Austria in 1941. Zirkl has refused to sell to the museum the two works, “Seated boy with folded hands” and “Self-portrait with red hair and striped oversleeves,” by Schiele, an Austrian Expressionist and protege of Gustav Klimt, according to the French news agency AFP.

Three other Schiele paintings that had been owned by Maylaender will remain at the museum, which houses the largest collection of Schiele works. It was not reported whether the museum will pay Zirkl for the paintings.

In 2010, an Austrian government panel in a nonbinding decision recommended that the museum return the works.

Earlier the same year, the museum paid $19 million to the estate of an Austrian Jewish woman, Bondi Jaray, for a Schiele painting that a Nazi reportedly stole from her in 1939. U.S. officials had seized the painting, “Portrait of Wally,” in 1999, two years after it arrived as a loan to New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

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