Vienna Philharmonic Identifies Heirs of Nazi-Looted Signac

Paul Signac, Port-en-Bessin. A Nazi official gave the work to the Vienna Philharmonic. Photo by Ayre Wachsmuth.

The rightful heirs of a 1883 seascape by French artist Paul Signac held currently by the Vienna Philharmonic have been identified, the New York Times reports. Titled Port-en-Bessin the work was given to the philharmonic in 1940 by a Nazi military official by the name of Roman Loos as a thank you for concerts the group performed in Vichy France. The painting is estimated to be worth $500,000.

The painting had been looted from the home of resistance leader Marcel Koch. Koch fled to Algeria in 1940. He lived there until 1944 when he returned to France. Koch passed away in 1999, unmarried and without children.

The Vienna Philharmonic has been aware that the painting was likely looted by the Nazis since 1987 when a letter of thanks from Loos was found in their archives, explaining the gift. It wasn’t until last year, however, with the help of art historian Sophie Lillie that Koch was identified as its rightful owner.

Since then, they have looked for any legitimate heirs Koch left behind. Those heirs were informed of the findings on Thursday by letter. It is unclear if they have yet to receive the news.

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