Van Gogh painting to return to JHB sisters

Johannesburg - A R49m painting believed to be by Vincent van Gogh will be returned to its rightful owners who are based in Johannesburg, the Sunday Times reported.

This after two sisters in their seventies won a battle to have the 1886 painting returned to them, reported the publication.

The piece Head of a Man had been at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne Australia since 1940.

"We are the legal heirs and it is only right that we get back what is rightfully ours," the siblings who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, were quoted as saying.

According to the weekly, German-Jewish industrialist Richard Semmel bequeathed his entire art collection to the sisters' grandmother, but he was forced to sell his collection by the Nazis. Semmel then auctioned off the piece along with other works in 1933.

Semmel fled after Adolf Hitler became Germany's chancellor in 1933.

The gallery acquired the piece from the exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art.

The sisters hired Olaf Ossmann, a lawyer based in Zurich, to take care of the restitution of the painting.

Ossmann would travel to Melbourne to discuss the future of the painting with the gallery's attorney Peter Stewart.