Jewish Family Claims 'The Scream' Is Looted Art

Ex-Owner's Relatives Take Aim at MoMA Ahead of Show

On the Block: Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ fetched nearly $120 million at auction. Should the masterpiece be considered Nazi-looted art?
getty images
On the Block: Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ fetched nearly $120 million at auction. Should the masterpiece be considered Nazi-looted art?

By Forward Staff

Published October 14, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The great-grandson of the onetime German-Jewish owner of Edvard Munch’s masterpiece “The Scream” is reportedly pushing his family’s claim to the $120 million painting as the Museum of Modern Art prepares to put it on display.

Rafael Cardoso, a Brazilian curator and descendant of banker Hugo Simon, says his great grandfather was forced to ditch the treasure when he was driven from Germany after the Nazis came to power in 1933, the New York Post reported.

“He was living under direct threat to his life,” Cardoso told the paper.

New York’s famed MoMA will unveil an exhibit including the Munch masterpiece next week.

Relatives of Simon came forward to push their claim to the artwork, which they claim is a Nazi-looted asset, when the 1895 painting was sold at a Sotheby’s auction this spring.

Billionaire Leon Black, a trustee of MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, bought the pastel piece for $119.9 million, the highest price ever paid for a work at auction.

The dispute again focuses attention on the issue of looted artwork, which some advocates say has seen major museums drag their feet.

MoMA has not returned any such artwork since 2001, when it says it started looking into various claims that pieces in its collection for works that might have been stolen from victims of Nazi terror.

It had signed a deal saying it would seek a “just and fair solution” for disputed art, but advocates say it has fought Jewish claims to pieces in court. Other top museums have also resisted claims by former Jewish art owners, perhaps out of fear of opening a deluge of new claims.

As he fled for his life with his family, Simon, a top collector, consigned ‘The Scream’ to a Swiss gallery. It’s not known if he was compensated and the artwork wound up in the hands of a Norweigian family.

Simon and his family escaped to Paris and eventually to Brazil, where he died in 1950.

Despite the murky history, Cardoso believes it is self-evident that the looming Holocaust prevented Simon from keeping the painting.

“The subject was never talked about by my grandparents, but we always knew they had been very rich and lost everything,” Cardoso, who is now in Berlin researching Simon for a book, told the Post.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.