On Tuesday, January 18, the Supreme Court of the United States heard an application for the return of a Camille Pissarro painting that was looted by the Nazis in 1939 and is currently on display in Spain. The decision will be made in a few months.
fabric Rue Saint-Honoré, afternoon. rain effect, painted in 1897, finds itself, like other works of the Impressionists, at the center of a long legal battle with international ramifications.
This painting, which shows wagons and pedestrians operating at a Paris crossroads, belongs in 1937 to a German Jew, Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, who was forced to hand her over to a Nazi official in exchange for documents allowing her to leave. ‘Germany. Then the trace of the painting was lost, which was auctioned in Berlin during the Second World War.
In 1958, she accepted monetary compensation, awarded by a German court, without waiving her rights. None of his descendants determined the place of work until 2000: Claude Cassirer learned that the painting, which he saw as a child in his grandmother’s living room, was shown in Madrid, in Thyssen-Bornemisza.
It was bought by the Spanish government seven years ago from Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, heir to the Thyssen family’s industrial empire and a great art collector, who himself bought it in the United States in the 1970s without knowing its history.
So Claude Casserre asks the Spanish government to reinstate the work, but he is refused. Based in California, he filed a complaint in 2005 in a US federal court. He has since passed away and his children have taken charge. Then the file extends over the two continents, the decisions of the Spanish judiciary and the American justice unfavorable to the heirs.
The January 18 hearing in the Supreme Court is their last hope. Discussions focused on a legal question: Is Spanish law or California law applicable in this case? According to the first, the owner is not obliged to return the looted property if he was not aware of its origin at the time of purchase. The second does not take into account the goodwill of the owner.
The judges, who focused during the hearing on highly technical points that did not even mention the work in question, will issue their decision within a few months.
Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis stole, looted, confiscated, or destroyed 600,000 works of art in Europe, according to a report from the US Congress. Despite recovery efforts, disputes between old and new owners are frequent, and courts on both sides of the Atlantic are regularly called upon to step in.
next to the cloth Saint Honore StreetOther paintings by Pissarro have been the subject of intense legal controversy, including picking peas, opposed by a pair of American collectors and a French Jewish family, or sponsor She brought in her sheep, an heiress who finally relinquished her rights in favor of the University of Oklahoma.