Actress Helen Mirren Takes Art Cause to Capitol Hill

Senators involved in a months’ long partisan battle over filling the vacancy at the U.S. Supreme Court set aside their fight for at least a few hours Tuesday in order to meet with Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren to discuss the matter of stolen art.

Actress Helen Mirren

As the struggle over the nomination of Merrick Garland to serve on the court passed the 80-day mark, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee took part of the afternoon off to revisit with Mirren the role Nazi Germany played in stealing the art treasures of Europe both before and during World War II.

Senators of both parties—including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)—said they are able to agree that art stolen by the Hitler regime more than 70 years ago should be returned to descendants of the victims.

Mirren urged the committee to quickly approve a bill (S. 2763) Cruz and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) are sponsoring with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to make it easier to repatriate stolen art. The measure would create a new six-year federal statute of limitations to allow descendants of victims another opportunity to pursue restitution claims.

Mirren said she became aware of the massive theft of art while working on the 2015 film “Woman in Gold.” The film told the true story of Maria Altmann’s legal fight to reclaim Gustav Klimit’s painting of her aunt, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.” The painting, stolen from Atlmann’s family during the war, was returned following a legal fight that went as far as the Supreme Court.

Mirren said restitution for victims is much more than reclaiming a physical good or financial gain.

“It is about preserving the fundamental human condition,” she said.