In 1939, the Nazis seized iconic painter Egon Schiele’s beautifully rendered portrait of his mistress Walburga “Wally” Neuzil from the home of a prominent Jewish art collector in Vienna. Such events were quite common as the Nazis looted from both Jewish private collections and the state museums of the countries they occupied. Despite attempts to hide major masterworks from the encroaching armies, the Nazis did take many privately owned masterworks for the private collections of high-placed Nazi officials and for museums in the German state. The recovery of these works by their rightful owners is a drama that is still playing out almost 70 years after the fall of the Third Reich. In the documentary film PORTRAIT OF WALLY, which is screening at Silverdocs this week, the Schiele masterwork is at the core of an intense legal battle launched by the Bondi family to recover its stolen property. The results are being closely monitored by the art world establishment as a precedent that could change the ownership rights of dozens of paintings and sculptures now in questionable hands. The film by Andrew Shea has just been picked up for U.S. distribution rights by Kino Lorber.
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