Settlement Finally Reached in "Portrait of Wally" Case

“Portrait of Wally”, by Egon Schiele

As has been hinted for a few days now, the very long legal dispute over this work has been settled.  A trial was set to begin on July 26th. This was a dispute brought nearly 12 years ago by Federal prosecutors against the work.   In these civil forfeiture proceedings it is then the task of all claimants to the painting to come forward and establish their claims to the work.  The painting had been on display in New York for a traveling exhibition and days before it was slated to return to Austria, legal proceedings were initiated.  The Leopold Museum in Vienna purchased the work in 1954, and has agreed to pay the successors of Lea Bondi Jaray—the woman who was forced to sell the work when the Nazis came to power—a settlement in the amount of $19 million. 

Both the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art which had received the loan of the work opposed the legal action, arguing that it would chill the movement of works of art for traveling exhibitions. 

  From the press release of Herrick, Feinstein here are the details of the settlement:

(a) the Leopold Museum pays the Estate $19 Million;
(b) the Estate releases its claim to the Painting;
(c) the United States Government dismisses the civil forfeiture action it brought against the Leopold Museum and releases the Painting to the Leopold Museum;
(d) the Leopold Museum will permanently display signage next to the Painting at the Leopold Museum, and at all future displays of the Painting of any kind that the Leopold Museum authorizes or allows anywhere in the world, that sets forth the true provenance of the Painting, including Lea Bondi Jaray’s prior ownership of the Painting and its theft from her by a Nazi agent before she fled to London in 1939; and
(e) before it is transported to the Leopold Museum in Vienna, the Painting will be publicly exhibited at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in New York, beginning with a ceremony commemorating the legacy of Lea Bondi Jaray and the successful resolution of the lawsuit.

For all of my posts dealing with this dispute, see here

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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