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Stolen art show – Exhibit traces Nazi theft

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A valuable painting stolen from its original owner by the Nazis will return to the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Raleigh News & Observer and America Online reported on June 2.

Sisters Marianne and Cornelia Hainisch, of Vienna, Austria, who are the nieces and heirs of original owner Philipp Gomperz, will sell the painting to the museum for one-half to three-quarters of its estimated value.

The painting, “Madonna and Child in a Landscape,” by Lucas Cranach, was taken from Gomperz in 1940. It was bequeathed to the museum in 1964 after changing hands several times.

“We ask you to consider this concession as a partial donation because in our opinion the public should know that the heirs of Philipp Gomperz appreciate the sense of justice shown by your decision to restitute the painting,” the Hainisch sisters wrote.

Museum director Lawrence Wheeler and chief curator John Coffey asked the sisters to consider selling the painting at a lower price so it could be used in a travelling exhibit tracing the painting’s history.

Coffey told the News & Observer that such an exhibit might include the Gestapo order to seize the painting, the fake bill of sale to Baldur von Schirach, Hitler’s lieutenant and the governor of Vienna, and the transcription of an interrogation in which Schirach recalls owning the painting but denies that it was confiscated from a Jew.

For full text, go to the News & Observer.

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