We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Camille Pissarro

US Supreme Court to determine fate of Pissarro painting looted by Nazis

The painting worth $30 million was taken from a Jewish woman for a pittance during Germany’s Nazi era.

THE US SUPREME COURT today weighed the fate of a painting by Camille Pissarro looted by the Nazis in 1939 and currently on display at a gallery in Spain.

The 1897 painting, “Rue Saint-Honore in the Afternoon. Effect of Rain,” like some other works by the French impressionist, is at the heart of a long legal battle with international ramifications.

The painting, now estimated to be worth around $30 million, once belonged to Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, a member of a prominent German Jewish family.

camille-pissarro-rue-saint-honore-in-the-afternoon-effect-of-rain-landscape-painting-1897 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Neubauer was forced to hand it over for a pittance to the Nazis in 1939 in exchange for the visa which allowed her to leave Germany.

The Neubauer family lost track of the painting after World War II and accepted compensation of $13,000 from the German government in 1958 but did not waive their rights to the artwork.

The painting changed hands several times in the ensuing decades before ending up with the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid.

It was acquired in 1976 by Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen Bornemisza, heir to the Thyssen industrial group, from the Stephen Hahn Gallery in New York.

Claude Cassirer, Neubauer’s grandson, discovered in 2000 that the painting was on display in Madrid and launched legal efforts in Spain and California to recover it.

Cassirer died in 2010 at the age of 89 but his children, David and Ana, have pursued the court challenges.

After suffering defeats in courts in Spain and California, the Supreme Court represents their final hope.

The highest US court will decide whether Spanish law or US state law applies in the case.

Under Spanish property law, a purchaser is not required to return an item if it was not known at the time that it may have had illegal origins and they have possessed it for at least six years.

“At no point were the Baron’s title to the painting nor his good faith in its acquisition called into question,” according to a statement by the museum.

Under California law, a looted or stolen item cannot be passed on even if it was purchased in good faith.

The court heard technical arguments today as to which law should apply and is expected to render its decision in several months.

The Nazis are estimated to have plundered some 600,000 artworks in Europe, according to a US congressional report, and courts on both sides of the Atlantic have regularly heard cases designed to restore items to their original owners.

© – AFP, 2022

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel