Cosmetics magnate Lauder sued over Klimt painting

NEW YORK Tue Oct 23, 2007 1:17am BST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The grandson of a Viennese Holocaust victim filed suit against cosmetics magnate Leonard Lauder on Monday, seeking to recover a painting by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt he claimed Lauder unfairly owns.

The lawsuit said the 1906 painting in dispute, "Blooming Meadow," estimated to be worth $10 million (5 million pounds) to $20 million, belonged to Amalie Redlich of Austria. She was forced to hand it over to the Nazis before apparently dying in the Holocaust, the lawsuit said.

Plaintiff Georges Jorisch of Canada, Redlich's grandson, claims in the suit that Lauder purchased the painting in 1983 and it is currently in Lauder's New York home. The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks to recover possession of the painting and its value in compensation.

Jorisch has said "Blooming Meadow" was first acquired by his grandmother's brother, Viktor Zuckerkandl, a Viennese steel magnate and friend of Klimt. It went to his grandmother when Zuckerkandl died in 1926, Jorisch said.

Since 2002 Lauder and Jorisch have conducted research to determine "the provenance of the painting," the suit said. Jorisch said the chief curator of the Austrian Gallery of Vienna had concluded in a recently published catalogue the painting was once owned by Redlich.

A spokeswoman for Lauder said Lauder had no comment on the lawsuit. In the past he has said the argument was without merit.

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