Just in: Vienna Philharmonic restores Nazi-stolen painting to Jewish owners

Just in: Vienna Philharmonic restores Nazi-stolen painting to Jewish owners


norman lebrecht

December 09, 2016

A painting given to the Vienna Philharmonic in 1940 by Romain Loos, a senior Gestapo official in France, is finally to be restored to its rightful owners.

The work, Port-en-Bessin by Paul Signac, is dated 1883.

It measures 60 x 30 cm and is valued at half a million US dollars.

The painting belongs to the family of Marcel Koch, who died childless in 1999.

It is not clear why the Vienna Philharmonic has waited until now to return it.

UPDATE: A source at the Vienna Philharmonic says that, not wanting to hand the painting over to the French Government, it has taken years to ascertain the rightful heirs of M. Koch. The painting will be handed over as soon as these procedures are completed.



  • Max Grimm says:

    Norman, the painting was given to the Vienna Phil by Romain Loos, who was not a “a senior Gestapo official” but the Chief of the Secret Field Police (Geheime Feldpolizei or GFP) in France.

    As to “It is not clear why the Vienna Philharmonic has waited until now to return it.”, according to an article from April 2014, the active search for the rightful owners/heirs had been underway since the 1980s.
    In the article the VPO claims that it took so long as it wanted to turn the picture over to the rightful owner(s) or their descendants and therefore needed to have absolute certainty and verification of the proper structure of ownership, otherwise ownership and possession of the painting would have fallen to the French state.

    • william osborne says:

      Thirty-five years to find the rightful owners after the search began. To say nothing of the 35 years previous to that when nothing was done for a mere total of 70 years…

      The Geheime Feldpolizei were a plain clothes branch of the German military police initially under the military intelligence command. One of their main functions was counter-insurgency work. They were known for torture and executions. It would be interesting if the painting originally belonged to a member of the French Resistance in addition to being Jewish.

      In 1942 the GFP was absorbed by the RSHA, an agency led by Himmler under which all police organizations were put under a single command, including the Gestapo. Himmler also controlled the SS, which included the extermination units that ran the death camps. Recent histories have noted that the German military police and the SS worked together in creating the Holocaust.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        And you’ll find absolutely none of these people in the Vienna Philharmonic today. When are these people going to left alone and not cursed by the sins of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers?

        Now, let’s turn our attention to the Americans who slaughtered EACH OTHER in the 19th century. Those southern orchestras would have musical ancesters I’d need to investigate.

        • William Osborne says:

          The point is that the orchestra only recently returned the painting. The history behind it is interesting and important.

          • Bviolinistic says:

            Do you believe it would have been better to return the painting to the French government rather than to persist in finding the rightful owner?

          • William Osborne says:

            I wonder why it took 70 years to find the rightful owners.

          • John Borstlap says:

            It looks like a very ugly painting. Maybe even Mr Loos, who probably was a brute, could no longer bear to see it and therefore gave it to the VPO, who possibly had the same problem with it and put it away, far out of sight. And then, it can easily have been forgotten.

  • CJ says:

    Yes, BVIOLINISTIC, I believe that it would have been much better, in the meantime, to return the painting to the French government, for 2 reasons :
    a) the painting was stolen from a French citizen
    b) the French authorities (and no, I am not French) are always careful to classify the works of art stolen by the Nazis as MNR (Musées Nationaux Récupération), these 3 letters are clearly indicated on the labels next to the works of art when they are on show. It means that they don’t belong to the French State but to the heirs of the owner and it can always be claimed by them when they are found. As you know, it has sometimes been difficult to trace the owners of works of art belonging to Jewish collectors as entire families have disappeared during the war.
    See the Rose-Valland MNR website: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/mnr/MnR-pres.htm
    By the way, we should not forget the beautiful, efficient and courageous role of Rose Valland and Jacques Jaujard in France during WW2, they risked their lives to protect the works of art.

  • Beaumont says:

    Always amusing – the Nazi burps emanating from the media j u s t before the New Year’s Day Concert. Also a kind of tradition by now.
    Anyway, to keep it short: citing France as a paragon of restitution is quite odd (for want of a better word).
    We (as societies and individuals) are also currently weighed and are continuously found wanting: http://www.overgrownpath.com/2016/12/classical-music-cannot-ignore-these-140.html
    Not to mention the political affiliations of the guy chosen to conduct the next January extravaganza.
    It seems it is a lot simpler to judge people aready dead than to deal with the present and one’s own shoddy part in it.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      The burp – as you indelicately put it – came from the Vienna Philharmonic in a statement to the media.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        It was the tone of the follow-up insinuations which were the ‘burps’. Complete agree with Beaumont’s comments.

        As I said, time to turn our attention to the Confederates’ ancestors in the USA’s orchestras. This kind of thing has a long way to play out when you take that journey.

        And I’d like to see the Wiener Philharmoniker concentrate on the music rather than trying to be politically correct. They need to realize they’ll never placate those who still hate them and that if they throw their haters a little fish they’ll want an alligator.

        • Bviolinistic says:

          The quality of the orchestra and the music it performs will always be the VPO’s primary goal

          • William Osborne says:

            This is more true now that they have ended much of their discrimination against women. The issue involving people who are fully Asian and have Asian family names remains open.

  • Observer says:

    Ah, there it is… The Asians with fully Asian names..I was waiting for that

    • Max Grimm says:

      Indeed. I wonder how Mr. Osborne views musicians such as the pianist Shin-Heae Kang or violinist So-Young Kim ‘Vorspieler’ of the 1st Violins of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester. Both are “fully Asian” and have “Asian family names” but were born in Germany.