woman in gold

Restitution claims resulting in the Nazi seizure of artwork, jewelry, money, furniture, etc., are upwards of billions of dollars with successful returning of stolen materials becoming more of the exception than the norm. Settlement agreements or restitution of any kind was opposed by many governments and sometimes even neglected until after the Cold War when the extent of both the worth and amount of objects seized became more widely known. The signing of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art in 1998 by over forty countries set into motion the identification of confiscated art pieces and the subsequent restitution of the art pieces to the pre-war owners.

Having said this, I found Woman in Gold to be a dynamic and intriguing portrayal of an actual art restitution claim that began in the late 1990s. This movie stars Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a Jewish woman who was forced to flee Vienna during World War II and who left with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Sixty years later, she began the arduous journey to get back her own family possessions that the Nazis seized, even while they were still living in their apartment in Vienna. Among these possessions, and arguably the one that created the most scandal in Austria, was the painting by Gustav Klimt called “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (aka “Woman in Gold”) that is a painting done of Maria Altmann’s aunt Adele. The Austrian government was not keen, to say the least, to just hand over the painting to Miss Altmann as it had become part of Austria’s heritage, even though it had been stolen from their family and not gifted as the government believes.

Ryan Reynolds plays as Maria Altmann’s attorney, Randy Schoenberg, a man who at first writes Altmann off and then becomes increasingly involved in this case, risking his job and family, and ultimately taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court. This movie is a fascinating look into the tangled and confusing web of restitution claims, governmental politics, and legal processes. It also perfectly highlights how the actual process of reclaiming something that was illegally taken from you can be incredibly difficult. Woman In Gold is only one story of successful art restitution, but with the release of this movie, the public is made more aware of the atrocities committed and objects stolen by the Nazis and just how complicated it is to get back something that is rightfully yours!


Interested in learning more about art restitution? Check out the following items below!

monuments men bookmonuments men dvdhitler's holy relicsrape of europasaving italythe venus fixershitler's art thiefthe lady in gold

my berlin kitchenIt takes courage to turn your life upside down, especially when everyone is telling you how lucky you are. But sometimes what seems right can feel deeply wrong. My Berlin Kitchen tells the story of how one thoroughly confused, kitchen-mad perfectionist broke off her engagement to a handsome New Yorker, quit her dream job, and found her way to a new life, a new man, and a new home in Berlin—one recipe at a time.

Luisa Weiss will seduce you with her stories of foraging for plums in abandoned orchards, battling with white asparagus at the tail end of the season, orchestrating a three-family Thanksgiving in Berlin, and mending her broken heart with batches (and batches) of impossible German Christmas cookies. Fans of her award-winning blog The Wednesday Chef, will know the happy ending, but anyone who enjoyed Julie and Julia will laugh and cheer and cook alongside Luisa as she takes us into her heart and tells us how she gave up everything only to find love waiting where she least expected it. (description from publisher)

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman is the latest epic biography by Robert Massie, an author who has written many fascinating books dealing with Russia and her historic leaders (including one of my favorites, Nicholas and Alexandra).  Catherine the Great started her life simply enough as Sophie, a minor German royal whose mother had lofty aspirations of her daughter marrying well.

After traveling to Russia as a teenager to marry Peter, the nephew of Empress Elizabeth and heir to the throne, Sophie is initially embraced by the members of the Russian court – but that quickly changes.  What follows is a whirlwind of betrayals, affairs, and power struggles as Catherine eventually ascends the Russian throne, guided by her studies of philosophy.  She used these principles to rule Russia during civil wars and foreign conflicts throughout her reign and the author portrays these events in vivid detail.   Massie’s writing style brings the entire era to life and personalizes Catherine as only he can – a highly recommended biography.