VIENNA (Reuters) - An Austrian museum has decided to return a valuable Gustav Klimt painting to the grandson of its original owner, a victim of the Nazis.
Klimt's Litzlberg am Attersee landscape is estimated to be worth 20 million to 30 million euros ($29.2-43.8 million) and is one of the museum's best known pieces.
"As painful as returning this painting is for the...collection, the province and all of Austria, I believe the Salzburg government must stay on the path started in 2002 and not allow itself to benefit from a criminal regime," Wilfried Haslauer, director of the Museum of Modern Arts, said on Thursday.
He was referring to a 2002 accord struck with Jewish organizations on returning assets that Nazis stole. The Salzburg government and parliament have to approve the move.
Experts commissioned by the museum determined that Georges Jorisch was the rightful owner of the oil on canvas painted in 1915. Jorisch is the grandson of Amalie Redlich, whom the Nazis deported to Poland in October 1941 and murdered.
The Gestapo confiscated the painting that Redlich had acquired in 1938. An art dealer bought the painting in 1944 and later swapped it with the museum for another work.
Jorisch's lawyer told Austrian radio his client would help fund an expansion of the museum as a gesture of gratitude.
Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by Paul Casciato