July 30th, 2010
05:05 AM ET

Painting stolen by Nazi on display in New York

A demur redhead in a modest black dress is making a brief appearance in New York, before finally returning home to Austria.

"Portrait of Wally," painted by Austrian Egon Schiele in 1912, was put on display Thursday at The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. On August 18, it will go back to the Leopold Museum in Vienna, after a settlement last week ended the painting's legal upheaval.

It's a story 70 years old, reaching across the Atlantic and involving Nazi theft, art-world deceit and a Jewish woman's deep affection for a favorite portrait.

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Austria • Europe • Holocaust • Judaism

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Maggie

    The Nazis, especially Hitler, had a notoriously bad taste in art.

    August 1, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
    • Matthew

      Ummm... wrong... try picking up a book and not make assumptions off one painting that just happens not to be your cup of tea.

      August 1, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  2. Simon

    The point–since you didn't get it the first time I made it–is that the assertion is yours to prove: find a copy being passed off as an original in a museum that admits to keeping the real work under wraps. Prove what you said a few posts ago.

    Until then, it's wise not to go looking for conspiracies when the real articles–with all the marks of their originality, known to those of us who know art–are on display.

    Pointing out famous forgers (another oxymoron) is not the issue: anyone willing to take a good look at a Vermeer can see that a Meegeren is a bad copy–obviously bad, as is often pointed out.

    So go to it–find out the fakes on display while the 'real' works remain hidden. The world will thank you for it.

    A little learning is a dangerous thing.

    August 1, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Reality


      One example: After paying $20 to tour a traveling Russian art display, I asked those in charge to include the security personal if all the art was real. Their reponse: only 10% was authentic. Unfortunately, the general public is not able to get up close to art "treasures" so there goes any hope of using a magnifying glass etc. to detect forgeries even if we were trained to do so.

      Your turn to be specific.

      August 2, 2010 at 12:52 am |
  3. Simon

    What you said was: "A little known secret, most museums do not display the original but use good a good copy keeping the original in their vault. Ditto for those "art" pieces that go on the road."

    Yes, there are forgeries. Museums, however, do not display copies of authentic works they have stashed away elsewhere. That's a very different topic from your response.

    And it's not 'a little known secret,' if only because there are no well-known secrets.

    Come on....

    July 31, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
    • Reality


      "Yes, there are forgeries. Museums, however, do not display copies of authentic works they have stashed away elsewhere. " And you know this how? You also have "little known secrets" to share?

      August 1, 2010 at 12:24 am |
  4. Wayback

    It's "demure," not "demur." Jeez.

    July 31, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  5. septocaine

    Uhhh, they should have kept the paintings maybe????

    July 31, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • Lalon

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      July 31, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  6. Reality

    A little known secret, most museums do not display the original but use good a good copy keeping the original in their vault. Ditto for those "art" pieces that go on the road.

    July 31, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • Simon

      @Reality. That is flatly, stupidly, not true. Anyone who's spent some time with art, in museums and elsewhere, knows the real thing when they see it, for a variety of reasons. Fakes are easy to spot and people aren't so easily fooled–unless, ostensibly like yourself, they're not too familiar with art.

      Otherwise, there'd be a vast underground industry producing single copies of immeasurably valuable works. Nice conspiracy theory!

      July 31, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • Reality

      Obviously, a museum is not going to tell anyone about their security measures. With respect to creating forgeries, we have this:

      The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, included a milestone fake—Christ and His Disciples at Emmaus—sold as a genuine Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675) for the equivalent of $4.7 million in 1937, but later determined to be the work of Dutch forger Han van Meegeren (1889 – 1947). Doubt about its authenticity came in 1945 when van Meegeren, having been accused by the Dutch police of selling a national treasure (another Vermeer) to the Nazis, declared that the "Vermeers" were his own work. To prove this, he then painted one in front of witnesses.

      A show in 2004 at Siena's Santa Maria della Scala in Italy honored gifted counterfeiters of the 19th and 20th centuries, regarded as the golden age of forgery. Those featured included Icilio Federico Joni (1866 – 1946), known as the prince of Sienese fakers. After turning out exquisite but phony Renaissance religious paintings, Joni outed himself in a 1932 autobiography, gleefully describing how he managed to fool the experts.

      "The forger is generally a talented person who has not made it in his own right and avenges himself by hiding behind works of successful artists," says art historian Gianni Mazzoni of the University of Siena and the exhibit's curator. "He takes particular pleasure when art critics and experts are taken in."

      The forger who most impressed Casillo was Alceo Dossena (1873 – 1937), whose works were also featured in Siena. The Italian sculptor is often described as the greatest counterfeiter of them all. Dossena rocked the art world in 1928 by revealing that he was behind some of the most prized works in prestigious collections and museums, including the Metropolitan and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He blew the whistle on the corrupt dealers who had been selling his sculptures as the work of Donatello and other revered Renaissance artists after the merchants refused him money to bury his wife.

      So, are fakes real art? Mazzoni says that for master counterfeiters like Dossena and Eric Hebborn (1934 – 1996), whose book, The Art Forger's Handbook, gives detailed instructions on creating "old masters," talent trumps forgery, making their pieces true "works of art."

      July 31, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  7. LRoy

    I actually like this. Not sure I would want the original in my house though, much too valuable. I nice proper size print would suffice.

    I've got to admit, for all the evils Nazis committed, they had pretty good taste in the arts. Then again, I'm sure some took these just so Jews didn't own them, not because they LIKED the artwork. But then again, the Nazis could've easily destroyed it. THAT would've been the real tragedy.

    July 31, 2010 at 10:10 am |
  8. OmegaMann

    There are still many painting in the Hermitage museum in Russia that the Russians stole from Germans in WWII also.

    July 31, 2010 at 2:37 am |
    • db

      It's called the spoils of war. Winner take all.

      August 2, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  9. Ground Zero

    Mental note meant to put a question mark!

    July 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  10. Ground Zero

    Why would any one want to steal just an old painting!

    July 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  11. Doug

    Art, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.

    July 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  12. Gary

    Wow my 6 year old could draw,paint better than that artist.

    July 30, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • Robert

      @Gary – Probably not.

      July 31, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
    • Simon

      And that's why Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kinkaid will always have an audience!

      Picasso once said that it took him his entire life to learn to draw like a child. He knew what he was talking about.

      July 31, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  13. Gatortarian

    Not sure what this has to do with religion. Ugly painting either way, I wouldn't hang it in an outhouse.

    July 30, 2010 at 8:47 am |
    • Matthew

      Really? You can't figure it out... German's took art owned by Jewish families during WWII and sold it, or kept it for themselves. I guess being ignorant to that fact allows you pass on your taste on art. Its ok not to be cultured or educated I guess.

      August 1, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.