Will Calif. Museum Return 500-Year-Old Adam and Eve Artwork Looted by Nazis?

Court OK's Woman's Suit Over Lucas Cranach the Elder Panels

wikipedia

By Reuters

Published June 06, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A federal appeals court has revived a New York City woman’s lawsuit to force a California museum to return two life-size panels by German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder that were looted by the Nazis during World War II.

By a 2-1 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday said Marei Von Saher may pursue her case against the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, California, over the nearly 500-year-old paintings of Adam and Eve.

The panels had been left behind when Von Saher’s father-in-law, Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, fled the Netherlands in 1940 as Germany invaded. Several hundred works in his gallery, including the Cranachs, were later sold to Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring at a fraction of their value.

“This litigation may provide Von Saher an opportunity to achieve a just and fair outcome to rectify the consequences of the forced transaction with Göring during the war,” Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote for the 9th Circuit majority, which heard the case in Pasadena.

A Norton Simon spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

Many lawsuits have been filed in recent years seeking the return of art that was looted during the Holocaust.

After the war ended, the Netherlands had gained control of many works from Goudstikker’s collection. It transferred the Cranach panels in 1966 to George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, who claimed they belonged to his Russian family.

The Norton Simon museum acquired the panels in 1971. Von Saher learned of their whereabouts three decades later, and sued in 2007 after six years of talks failed to resolve the case.

U.S. District Judge John Walter in Los Angeles dismissed the case in March 2012, finding that her claims conflicted with U.S. policy on recovered art.

Nelson, however, said Von Saher was “just the sort of heir” encouraged under international conventions governing property looted by the Nazis to come forward, and that the dispute was between private parties and did not involve foreign policy.

The 9th Circuit returned the case to the district court to review whether the transfer to Stroganoff-Scherbatoff was an “act of state” that a U.S. court should not disturb.

Circuit Judge Kim Wardlaw dissented, saying the Netherlands had after the war afforded the Goudstikker family an “adequate opportunity” to recover the Cranachs, and that the United States should respect the “finality” of that country’s actions.

“Ms. Von Saher is very happy with the decision,” her lawyer Lawrence Kaye, a partner at Herrick Feinstein, said in a phone interview. “She believes that after all this time and all this litigation, the museum should, as many museums are, finally do the right thing.”


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!
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • 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.