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Vienna Museum restitute painting to family of Herbert Gutmann

On March 31, 2009, the Vienna Museum will return the painting “The Death of Pappenheim” by the celebrated Austrian artist Hans Makart, to the grandchildren of Herbert M. Gutmann (1879-1942). The decision to restitute the painting was reached unanimously by Vienna's municipal council on June 25, 2008.

Vienna Councillor, Dr. Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, and Dr. Michael Wladika, the member of the Restitution Office of the Viennese Museums, will hand over the painting to the legal representatives of the family Gutmann and the grandson of Herbert Gutmann. A press conference will take place on March 31, 2009 at 2 p.m. in the meeting room of the Wien Museum, Karlsplatz.

Herbert M. Gutmann was born in Dresden, Germany. His father Eugen was one of the founders in 1872 of the Dresdner Bank. Herbert was a member of the board of managers of the Dresdner Bank AG and head of the board of the Deutsche Orientbank AG. The Dresdner Bank named him as its representative on over thirty advisory boards of both German and foreign companies.

At his villa, “Herbertshof”, in Potsdam and his Berlin apartment, he housed his sizeable and prestigious collection of Dutch landscape paintings as well as French and German Rococo pieces, Asian porcelain and sculpture.

After the Nazis came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, life for Gutmann and his family changed forever. Their Jewish origins and his political activity during the days of the democratic Weimar Republic brought him to the attention of the Nazis. As the Dresdner Bank was under Reich’s control, the Nazis exerted influence on the management of the bank as early as March 1933. Gutmann had to relinquish several advisory boards of companies connected to the Dresdner Bank. The German State also cancelled all the contracts he had secured through the bank and, furthermore, the Dresdner Bank went to claim that Gutmann also owed them thousands of Reichmarks in unsubstantiated debts. For this reason, he was forced to sell his property.

He managed to emigrate to England in October 1936. Herbert Gutmann contracted cancer soon after and died in Paignton, Devon on December 22, 1942. The painting passed through different hands before it was bought by the Vienna Museum from a private Danish collector.

The return of the painting to its original owners marks a milestone in the history of restitution in Austria as it acknowledges the European-wide dimension of persecution under the Nazis in Germany and their regimes throughout Europe between January 1933 and April 1945.

The family hopes this decision will speed up their other claims for restitution of art works formerly owned by Herbert M. Gutmann.


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