State Museum Returns "Painting Stolen by NS"

Neues Volksblatt (11/29/02):

Together with historians from the University of Linz, the State Museum of Upper Austria sifted through its inventory the last few months in search of "NS Stolen Art."

In regard to one of the paintings it has now been determined that the grandchild of the rightful owner lives in the USA: the painting "Fowl" by the Dutch painter, Melchior Hondecoeter, dating from the 17th century, is in the process of being transported across the Atlantic.

The 2.5 x 2 meter large painting originates from the second half of the 17th century. Before Austria’s Anschluss to Hitler’s Germany, it belonged to a Jewish woman living in Vienna, and was "confiscated" by the Gestapo from her apartment in 1938. In 1942 it was commissioned by Hitler to be bought at an auction from the "Wiener Dorotheum" for the planned "Museum of the Führer." Afterwards the work was deposited in the region of Linz. At the turn of 1944/45 it was then brought, along with other art works, to an underground tunnel in Bad Aussee to avoid being damaged by bombing attacks. However, along the way, something bizarre happened: the transport was caught in a snow storm. Finally the paintings were stored in a guest house in Steeg am Hallstätter See. There they remained until the Americans arrived. They were found and turned over to the State Museum of Upper Austria to be held in safekeeping.

This was an odyssey which was cleared by historians, and the rightful owner, living in the United States, will soon be in possession of the painting. The Governor of Upper Austria, Josef Pühringer, will try to expedite the return. The costs involved in transporting it to the USA will be covered by the State of Upper Austria, said the Head of the Cultural Section, Manfred Mohr. Sixteen other paintings from the State Museum are momentarily being examined.