Tests to prove Munch heirs

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A Norwegian woman who’s a certified if distant heir to famed artist Edvard Munch is keen to help in the DNA testing of an American woman who thinks she may be Munch’s granddaughter. “This is fun for us, if it’s true,” Elisabeth Munch-Ellingsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday.

Artist Edvard Munch may have had children after all. PHOTO: National Library

Munch-Ellingsen is the great-great-granddaughter of Munch’s uncle, Petter Andreas Munch, and thus has the Munch family’s DNA. It can be tested against that of the American woman interviewed by NRK on Sunday night’s national newscast Dagsrevy, who would be a much closer descendant and direct heir of Edvard Munch. He’s listed in all official papers as never having had children.

Now Janet Weber of the US, age 72, has told NRK that her grandmother was Eva Mudocci, a violinist known to have had a romantic relationship with Edvard Munch around the time Weber’s mother was born in 1910. Mudocci gave birth to twins in 1910, one of whom later became Weber’s mother , but Mudocci never revealed who was their father.

Weber told NRK that neither her mother nor grandmother would talk about who fathered the twins, and she doesn’t think her own mother was ever told. Munch died in 1944, when the twins were then 34 years old, and reportedly was never told himself that he might have had two children.

Both twins have since died as well but Weber showed NRK many family photos and it’s known that Mudocci was among Munch’s models, appearing, for example, in the lithograph Brosjen (The Brooch).

Weber has decided to undergo DNA testing to settle once and for all whether she’s Munch’s granddaughter, and Munch-Ellingsen has agreed to help.

“I have no problems with allowing myself to be DNA-tested to confirm this relationship,” Munch-Ellingsen told NRK. “But it’s a bit sad if he (Edvard Munch) was father to two children who were 34 years old when he died. If that’s true, he never got to meet them. That’s sad.”

She still thinks it’s “fun” to think that a long-lost granddaughter might have surfaced. “We’re such a small family descending from Munch,” Munch-Ellingsen said. “She’s possibly much closer, so this is just fun.”

Ketil Bjørnstad, the musician and author who’s written a biography on Edvard Munch, called the possibility of a direct descendant “exciting.” He thinks Weber seems credible and that he can see a resemblance between her and Munch family members.

Weber told NRK she’s not coming forward with her story in the hopes of inheriting any of Munch’s fortune or paintings, which have been selling for huge sums at auction. His famous painting Skriket (The Scream) set a new price record last spring and interest in his work is higher than ever. Munch left his own vast personal collection of his art to the City of Oslo decades ago, though, and any inheritance claims from Weber would likely be deemed outdated under Norwegian law.

“She has no chance of having legal rights,” John Asland, and expert in inheritance at the University of Oslo, told NRK. “It’s so long since Munch died, any claims to Munch’s estate are long expired.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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