In a ceremony yesterday at the Belvedere museum in Vienna, the painting, titled Sommernacht am Strand ("Summer Night on the Beach"), was presented to Fistoulari-Mahler by Austrian Culture Minister Claudia Schmied, who said that returning it to its rightful owner was a "historic duty," according to a report from Agence France-Presse.
The artwork was given to Alma Mahler-Werfel, the composer's widow, in 1916 by her second husband, the architect Walter Gropius. She loaned several works, including Sommernacht am Strand, to the Belvedere museum in 1937, one year before the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.
Alma fled Austria with her third husband, the poet Franz Werfel, the day after Hitler annexed the country. Her stepfather, Carl Moll, one of the founders of the ‹sterreichische Galerie (as the Belvedere was then known), then sold the painting to the museum without her permission.
Fistoulari-Mahler, who lives in Italy, has reportedly declined to discuss the value of the painting. A spokewoman for the Belvedere told Bloomberg News that she hasn't yet said what she plans to do with the painting.
At the beginning of 2006, Austria restored to their previous owners and their heirs five paintings by Gustav Klimt that had been stolen by the Nazis; the works were subsequently auctioned in New York for $327 million.