Israel Reflections 2015: Vienna to Israel and the Lady in Gold

adele-bloch-bauerWell, I had very high hopes for being able to blog while in Israel and those were quickly dashed between the total lack of sleep and need to reflect on what we were seeing!  So finally, now that we have been back for a week, I will start posting about the sights and visits that we had.  We stopped over on the way and spent about 8 hours running around Vienna.  This proved to be a terrific stop because we were able to link two different visits in Israel to what we saw in Vienna.  We started at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna where the famous Klimt painting, The Kiss, is shown.  Up until very recently, the Belvedere also housed a painting known as the Lady in Gold (seen above).  And you can still see t-shirts and mugs bearing the likeness of this painting through downtown Vienna.  But this painting is now longer there.

It turns out the Lady in Gold is actually The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a well-known society woman in Vienna who commissioned the portrait at the turn of the century.  Unfortunately for her and her heirs, Adele was Jewish.  The painting was looted during the Holocaust, the name changed to hide its original identity, and it took a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2004 (Republic of Austria v. Altmann)  to get this painting back to the family — a niece by the name of Maria Altmann.

Should you want to learn more about this story, you could read the book The Lady in Gold and plan to go see the movie Woman in Gold (with Helen Mirren as Maria Altman and Ryan Reynolds as the lawyer and college classmate Randol Schoenberg) coming out soon!

For our first meeting in Israel on the day we landed, we were lucky enough able to hear more about this story directly from the author.  Anne-Marie O’Connor, the author of the book, The Lady in Gold, and freelance journalist for The New York Times, joined us for dinner along with her husband, William Booth, the Jerusalem bureau chief for the Washington Post.  Anne-Marie talked about the book, the legal case, and life as a journalist in Israel.  William was able to give us some off-the-record reflections on the election and Israeli politics.  It was a great start to the week and a terrific meal at one of my favorite restaurants Eucalyptus.  (See one of my student’s blog posts about the meal itself here.  She called this a seven course stairway to heaven!)

[Cross-posted at Indisputably.]

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