Spanish museum allowed to keep Pissarro's painting stolen by Nazis

By TravelWiseJan 29, 2024 17:51 PMNews
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Spanish museum allowed to keep Pissarro's painting stolen by Nazis
Pissarro's painting can be kept in a Spanish museum. Source: pexels

A U.S. appeals court has said that Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum can keep a painting by French impressionist Camille Pissarro that the Nazis stole from a Jewish woman, dismissing an ownership claim that her heirs have pursued for more than two decades.

The 3-0 decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, was made in one of the oldest Nazi art theft cases, which began in 2005 and reached the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago. This was reported by thefrontierpost.com.

Pissarro's painting "Rue Saint Honore, apres midi, effet de pluie", depicting a Parisian street scene, was stolen in 1939 from Lilly Neubauer, who was forced to sell it for 900 Reichsmarks ($360) to obtain a visa and escape from Nazi Germany. She was never paid.

The ownership passed through several hands until 1993 when Thyssen bought the 1897 painting from Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and put it on display, where it remains today.

When Neubauer's grandson, Claude Cassirer, learned of the painting's whereabouts, he petitioned for its return in 2001 and filed a lawsuit four years later. He died in 2010, and his son David and the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County are now handling the case.

In the ruling, District Judge Carlos Bea said that Spain's interest in providing "certainty of ownership" of its museums outweighed California's interest in deterring theft and obtaining reparations for victims of stolen art living there.

He said that this justified applying Spanish law rather than California law, granting Thyssen the right to the painting because it had owned and exhibited it in good faith for eight years before its ownership was called into question.

At the same time, District Judge Consuelo Callahan said that Spain should have voluntarily relinquished the painting, reflecting its commitment to returning Nazi-stolen art to victims but the law required a different outcome.

The decision came two years after the Supreme Court overturned a previous 9th Circuit decision due to an incorrect application of choice of law rules.

The Cassirer's lawyers said in a joint statement that the decision "does not explain why Spain is interested in using its laws to launder the property of war booty." They plan to seek a review by an 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit.

Thaddeus Stauber, a lawyer for Thyssen, called the decision "a welcome conclusion to this case."

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