On the Eve of Criminal Trial in U.S., Rudolph Leopold, Collector of Artworks Stolen from Jews, Dies in Vienna

Egon Schiele’s Dead City

Art collector Rudolph Leopold died today in Vienna, Austria.
In 1998, D.A. Robert Morgenthau seized two stolen artworks at the Museum of Modern Art that Leopold had loaned to the MoMA:  Egon Schiele’s Dead City and Schiele’s Portrait of Wally.
Leopold was scheduled to stand criminal trial this summer before the Hon. Loretta A. Preska in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after Judge Preska determined that Portrait of Wally was stolen.
But MoMA returned the stolen Dead City to the Leopold Museum in Austria.  The Austrian Provenance Commission’s head Dr. Christoph Bazil, has repeatedly promised to investigate Dead City‘s provenance and those of other Schiele’s stolen from Fritz Grunbaum that are in the Leopold and Albertina Museums in Vienna, but after 11 years, no report has issued.

Austria purchased Leopold’s collection and made Leopold director of the Leopold Museum for life.  It remains to be seen whether Austria will carry through on its promises to investigate and return the stolen works in Leopold’s collection.

Article 26 of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty requires Austria to return all property stolen from Nazi persecutees.  Yet Austria has not only failed to return the property, but repeatedly set up enabling legislation designed to frustrate claims and then let the legislation lapse.