Another Film About Art Repatriation Misfires

Klimt-Woman-in-GoldI’ve just seen another film on the popular subject of art repatriation, along the lines of the Hollywood “comedy-drama” Monuments Men. The latest is the disappointing Woman in Gold, starring a horribly miscast Helen Mirren, about the fate of the Klimt painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer. This made me think about the superb Edmund de Waal book, The Hare with Amber Eyes, which no doubt will soon be made into a shallow film. De Waal’s great-grandmother, Emmy von Ephrussi, lived in the magnificent Palais Ephrussi on the Ringstraasse in Vienna, where the Bloch-Bauers also lived. In 1938, both the Ephrussis and the Bloch-Bauers were crushed by the Nazis in the Anschluss annexation and their businesses, palaces, and art (including the “Woman in Gold” and the “hare with the amber eyes”), were seized. Another branch of the Ephrussi family lived on the posh rue de Monceau in Paris, alongside other great Jewish families, including the Rothschilds and the Camondos. When Moise de Camondo’s son Nissim died flying for France in the first world war, he bequeathed his “hôtel”, with its magnificent furnishings and art, to be kept exactly as they were as a tribute to his son, to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In spite of this, Paris did not protect his daughter and her children, who were sent to Auschwitz to perish. If you visit Paris, you must visit their house, the Musée de Camondo on the rue de Monceau, which is one of the most impressive small museums in Paris. In a small room upstairs in this palace, there is a history in film, photographs, and writings of the people who once lived in it. No doubt, someone will soon be writing a book and making a superficial film about them.

Comments are closed.