British actress and Dame, Helen Mirren expressed her support for the restitution of Nazi-looted art at the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin on Monday, AFP reported. Speaking at a press conference before the premier of the actress’s new film Woman in Gold, the 69-year-old British performer told journalists “We mustn’t ever feel that we’ve come to the end of that particular human journey.”
Mirren was promoting her new film ‘Woman In Gold’ where the actress portrays the character, Maria Altmann, as she and her young lawyer, portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, take the Austrian Belvedere Museum to court over the restitution of a portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, who was the wife of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy industrialist who sponsored the arts and the artist Gustav Klimt.
Adele Bloch-Bauer was the only model to be painted twice by Klimt; she also appeared in the much more famous Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. The portraits had hung in the family home prior to their seizure by the Nazis during World War II. The Austrian museum where they resided after the war was reluctant to return them to their rightful owners, hence a protracted court battle ensued, which resulted in five Gustav Klimt paintings being returned to Maria Altmann.
In 2006, Altmann sold Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) to American collector Ronald Lauder for $135 million. The painting now hangs in Lauder’s Neue Galerie in New York. The film, directed by Simon Curtis, highlights the Nazi’s theft of an estimated 100,000 artworks and other cultural artifacts during the Third Reich’s power.
“In a way I found that just the most emotional thing to see,” Mirren added, fighting back tears. “To me that brings all of the whole story together in one image.” Mirren, who was previously unfamiliar with the Altmann Klimt Restitution case, said that now, almost a decade on, Austria understood its moral implications. “Vienna was enormously welcoming to us to shoot — there was never any sense of resentment or anger or anything,” she said. “They said ‘we are grateful to Maria Altman here in Vienna because she made us look at our past in a realistic way and take on board things that we had never taken on board before’.