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Original Owners of Famous Painting Stolen by Nazis Fight for its Return

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel


On December 4, 2018, the fate of a famous painting by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro was the focus of arguments in Los Angeles federal court. Rue Saint-Honore in the Afternoon. Effect of Rain, the painting in question, has a long and storied past dating back to 1930s Germany and is currently said to be valued at around $30 million. The plaintiffs in the suit, the Cassirer family, argue that the painting rightfully belongs to them and not Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, where it has been on display since it was acquired from a Swiss collector in 1988. In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the painting was illegally confiscated from Lilly Cassirer in 1939 by Nazi officials as she was fleeing Germany The plaintiffs argued that the confiscation was in violation of several international laws. After the painting was illegally obtained, it was next traced to the collection of a New York art dealer, then to a Swiss collector who eventually sold it to the defendant.

The plaintiffs discovered the whereabouts of the painting in 2000 and unsuccessfully requested that the museum return the family heirloom multiple times before eventually filing the lawsuit in 2005. The defendant museum argues that it acquired the painting in good faith and had no knowledge of its past. However, the plaintiffs argue that the Swiss collector who sold the piece to the museum was fully aware of the paintings past and falsified its origins. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter is still deliberating the fate of the painting.

The case is: David Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, Case No.: 2:05-cv-03459, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California


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