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Dr. Clemens Hellsberg
The President of the Vienna Philharmonic, Dr. Clemens Hellsberg has announced that the orchestra will be returning a work from the early period of the painter Paul Signac to the heirs of its rightful owner, the French citizen Marcel Koch. In 1945 Marcel Koch founded the Documentation Française and served as the institution's director until 1969.
Based on research by the art historian Sophie Lillie, M. A., which was commissioned by the Vienna Philharmonic, the provenance of the painting has now been established. The painting was disappropriated in 1940 in the Departement Jura by the Secret Field Police (Geheime Feldpolizei). At that time, the Philharmonic performed three concerts in Salin-les-Bains, Besançon and Dijon and received the stolen painting as a gift from the Viennese director of the Secret Field Police, Dr. Roman Loos.
"The restitution of the painting is very important for us. We have been trying for years to work through the Vienna Philharmonic's past and meet our obligations to correct historical injustices.
Since the 1980s the Philharmonic has made several attempts to clarify the painting's provenance. Dr. Hellsberg: "We are very pleased that now, thanks to the efforts of Sophie Lillie, a breakthrough has been made and the heirs have been found. We are also grateful for the support of Ambassador Stéphane Gompertz, opera director Dominique Meyer and Professor DDr. Oliver Rathkolb." A ceremonial transfer of the painting is planned for later this year.
Continuing research on the provenance of musical instruments and other objects from the archives have so far yielded no indications of improper ownership, but the systematic research with the assistance of internationally recognized experts is ongoing.
A comprehensive report on the Vienna Philharmonic during the era of National Socialism by the historians Oliver Rathkolb, Fritz Trümpi and Bernadette Mayrhofer can be found on the orchestra's website.
New York Times Article