Stolen artwork seized by Nazis
Stolen artwork seized by Nazis Reuters

A leading panel of experts on Friday recommended that Austria not return one of the country's most treasured artworks to the descendants of its Jewish former owners robbed by the Nazis, according to AFP

The Art Restitution Advisory Board "recommended unanimously ... not to return the 'Beethoven Frieze' by Gustav Klimt to the heirs of Erich Lederer," panel chair Clemens Jabloner told journalists.

The fresco, 34 meters (112-feet) long, two meters high and weighing several tons, is widely regarded as a central masterpiece of Viennese "Jugendstil" art nouveau from the early 20th century.

The Nazis confiscated the 1902 work from the Jewish Lederer family in 1938.

After the end of World War II in 1945 Austria returned it to the family heir Erich Lederer, living in Switzerland, who then sold it to the Austrian
Republic in 1972.

His descendants say however that Lederer sold it under pressure because Austria refused to allow him to take the frieze out of the country, and that the reported sale price of $750,000 was too low. They launched a claim for its return in 2013.