6 March 2015
Last updated at 02:28
A special panel in Austria is due to recommend whether one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings should be returned to the heirs of its original Jewish owners.
The Beethoven Frieze was looted by the Nazis but returned to the family after World War Two.
But it was subject to an export ban. The heirs argue this forced their family to sell it at a cut-rate price.
The museum where it is on display disputes this claim.
The Beethoven Frieze is one of Gustav Klimt’s most celebrated and monumental works of art.
Based on Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, it marks the beginning of the artist’s “golden period”.
Klimt painted the frieze directly on to the wall
The artwork was originally intended to be temporary
Klimt painted it directly on to the walls of Vienna’s Art Nouveau Secession gallery in 1902 as part of an exhibition.
Originally the painting, which stretches over three walls, was intended as a temporary work of art, which was to be destroyed at the end of the 1902 exhibition.
But instead it has had a long and dramatic history.
In 1915 it was sold to a Jewish industrialist, August Lederer.
In 1938, much of Mr Lederer’s art collection, including the frieze, was seized by the Nazis.
The Beethoven Frieze is currently on display at the Secession museum in Vienna
The whole thing is 34m-wide (112ft) and two metres high and is based on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
After the war the frieze was returned to August Lederer’s son, Erich, who was living in Switzerland – but there was a catch. It was subject to an export ban and Erich wasn’t allowed to take it out of Austria.
The heirs of the Lederers argue that as a result of the export ban, Erich Lederer was forced to sell the work to the Austrian state at a cut-rate price in 1972.
In 2013 two groups of Lederer heirs filed a claim for the return of the frieze, after Austria amended its restitution law to apply to property that was sold at a discount because of export bans.
The Secession museum, where the frieze has been displayed since 1986, disputes the heirs’ claim.
It says Mr Lederer voluntarily negotiated the price of $750,000 (£490,000; €680,000) and it says the Austrian government paid for the frieze’s restoration.
It is not clear what would happen to the work if the official advisory panel decided the artwork should be returned on Friday.
Journalist Marianne Enigl says Austria is making a special effort to return looted works of art
Marianne Enigl, a journalist from Profil magazine specialising in Nazi-era restitution, says in recent years Austria has taken many steps to return property looted during the Third Reich.
“Austria has a very difficult history because so much property was taken away.
“But in the 1990s, Austria made a new effort. It has a law, which no other country has, looking for all the looted objects and works of art in its museums.
“Since then, 50,000 objects, including major works, have been given back.”