Earlier this week I was introduced to the trailer for BBC Films’ upcoming feature The Woman in Gold, a screen dramatization of Holocaust survivor Maria Altmann’s real life efforts to reclaim Gustav Klimt’s renowned portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, from Austria’s state-owned Belvedere Gallery. Altmann, Bloch-Bauer’s niece, was named as an heir to the painting in her uncle’s will, but the Nazis seized the piece–along with four other Klimts–from the family’s home in Vienna in 1938. The Third Reich later installed the portrait at the Belvedere and made the institution its formal owner through some convenient interpretations of competing legal documents.
The movie charts Altmann’s seven-year courtroom cage match against the Republic of Austria, and it’s being marketed as your classic underdog tale of truth, justice, and art’s relationship to both. For this reason, I assume The Woman in Gold climaxes with the Austrian judges’ decision to award Altmann the painting rather than with Altmann and the other heirs’ decision to sell it for $135M only a few months after it was legally returned to the family. Not exactly a snug fit with the pure-hearted ideals and grand swells of emotion featured in the trailer, but certainly not a move I’m going to criticize.Read More