After a decade long battle over a painting that had been seized by its original owner during WWII by Nazi troops is finally coming to a close.
In 1997, The Leopold Museum in Vienna had loaned Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Wally to the Museum of Modern Art. Once on display, US officials then seized the art piece in 1998 after the estate of original owner Lea Bondi Jaray made claims that the art work was handed over by the Nazi’s under duress, right before she fled Austria.
Lea Bondi Jaray died in 1969.
The US government has the right to seek paintings under the National Stolen Property Act, which allows for the confiscation of property over $5000 which have been known to be stolen or taken by fraud. The value of the painting at that time was estimated to be around $2 million dollars.
In a deal settled yesterday in Manhattan federal court, the Leopold Museum agreed to pay the heirs of Â Lea Bondi Jaray as stipulated in a settlement documents released by the estate lawyers. The terms of the settlement are as follows:
(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 Jarayâ€™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.
And so, it is almost a decade later the saga of the stolen painting ends but is available to us to view for the next three weeks right here in Battery Park City. Representatives of the estate wanted to highlight the importance of showcasing the work at the Museum. According to the statement by Jaray’s estate:
“Representatives of the Estate expressed their appreciation at reaching this historic settlement, which reflects the true value of the Painting, and acknowledges Lea Bondi Jarayâ€™s ownership of the Painting and her and her familyâ€™s long quest for justice. In addition, they underscored that the public display of the Painting at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York will mean that visitors will be able to view the Painting in a setting that memorializes the sufferings of so many in the Holocaust and the resilience and resolve of those who escaped and/or survived. They added that the permanent signage reflecting the Paintingâ€™s true provenance will ensure that future generations are told the real story of the Paintingâ€™s theft from Lea Bondi Jaray during the Nazi era.”
According to the family, “Finally after more than 70 years, the wrongs suffered by Lea Bondi Jaray are at least being acknowledged and, to some degree, corrected.”