German Panel Recommends Restitution of Nazi-Looted Egon Schiele Painting

Schiele painted the watercolor in 1917

Egon Schiele
Egon Schiele with a Madonna figure in his studio in Vienna's 13th district.
Imagno/Getty Images

In 1917, artist Egon Schiele painted the watercolor Crouching Female Nude. It spent many years in the collection of Dr. Heinrich Rieger, a dentist who sometimes accepted art in lieu of payment. Sadly, the painting ended up being looted by the Nazis before Rieger and his wife were murdered in concentration camps. In 1966, Crouching Female Nude was donated to the city of Cologne, and it has been part of the collection of the Museum Ludwig since 1976. That seems likely to change, however.

At Hyperallergic, Cassie Packard reports that Germany’s advisory commission handling “the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution” recently issued a ruling on the Schiele painting. Its recommendation? That the painting be returned to Rieger’s heirs.

According to the article, Cologne’s head of culture Susanne Laugwitz-Aulbach and Yilmaz Dziewior, director of Museum Ludwig, both support the panel’s recommendation. The next step is determining the method of restitution; that will be on the table when the Cologne city council meets on March 23.

A New York Times article from 2002 explored the scope of Rieger’s art collection — and emphasizes that the effort to return the pieces of that collection to his family has been going on for many years. “Rieger was the biggest collector of modern art in Austria between the wars,” journalist Stephan Templ told the Times — which gives a sense of how vast the task of returning those works is.

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