Two More Nazi-Looted Egon Schiele Works Have Been Returned to the Heirs of a Jewish Collector

The works were retrieved from Oberlin College’s Allen Museum and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

Egon Schiele, Girl With Black Hair (1911). Photo courtesy of Homeland Security Investigations

Two works by the Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, looted by the Nazis during World War II, have been returned to the descendants of the family that once owned them. The return of the works, Portrait of a Man (1917) and Girl With Black Hair (1911), was announced by investigators with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin J. Bragg.

One of the works, Girl With Black Hair, was voluntarily handed over by Oberlin College’s Allen Museum to prosecutors in Manhattan. It is now back in the hands of the heirs of Austrian Jewish performer Fritz Grünbaum and his wife Elisabeth. Grünbaum was murdered at the Dachau concentration camp in 1941.

The other, Portrait of a Man, came from Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. It was seized by Bragg’s office in September 2023, along with a third piece, Russian War Prisoner (1916), from the Art Institute of Chicago. It was not immediately clear if the latter work has yet been returned to the family.

Egon Schiele, Portrait of a Man (1917). Photo courtesy of Homeland Security Investigations

This latest restitution follows the return of seven Schiele works in September 2023, and comes just months after a federal judge in Manhattan temporarily halted a case brought by the heirs against the Albertina Museum, the Leopold Museum, and the government of Austria. Grünbaum’s descendants Timothy Reif, Leon Fraenkel, and Milos Vavra first filed the lawsuit in December 2022. In total, the family is seeking to restitute 12 works, including Dead City IIISelf-Portrait With Grimace (1910), Standing Man in Red Shawl (1913), and Standing Girl With Orange Stockings (1914).

The judge halted the case because the heirs have had difficulty serving the foreign entities, allowing them to seek help through diplomatic channels. The stay allows the plaintiffs time to get the assistance of the U.S. State Department to serve the defendants with the lawsuit.

Before his death at Dachau 1941, Grünbaum built a huge art collection of at least 440 works. Among them were some 80 pieces by Schiele that Grünbaum’s wife, Elisabeth, was allegedly forced to hand over to Nazi authorities when he was imprisoned. The family has spent nearly two decades trying to recover the works.

“With the return of the ninth and 10th Egon Schiele pieces today,” Christopher Lau, the acting deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said in a restitution ceremony, “we are unendingly proud to reverse history.”


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