Jewish family appeals ruling in case of Nazi-looted art
(JTA) — The family of a Jewish woman who sold a valuable painting under duress while fleeing the Nazis has appealed a decision by a U.S. judge allowing a museum in Spain to maintain possession.
The family of Lilly Cassirer on Friday appealed the ruling handed down earlier this month in the case of the 1897 painting “Rue Saint-Honoré, Après-midi, Effet de Pluie,” a Paris street scene by Camille Pissarro, which is in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.
Judge John Walter of the Los Angeles District Court of California ruled on June 4 that that Spanish law applied in the case, and the law did not require the painting’s return. The ruling came after a decade-long dispute over ownership.
In 2005, Cassirer’s grandson Claude sued for restitution of the painting, which his German-born grandmother sold in 1939 to an art dealer for the equivalent of $360 as she was fleeing her homeland from the Nazis. Cassirer’s father-in-law, Julius, had purchased the painting from the painter.
The museum does not dispute that the painting was stolen, but is fighting the lawsuit on technicalities, including international jurisdiction issues and time limitation on restitution claims.
Eventually the painting was acquired by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1976 and has been displayed in Madrid since the museum opened in late 1992. It was insured for over $10 million.
The Jewish Federation of San Diego County has agreed to be a co-plaintiff on the appeals case with the Cassirer family, according to NBC San Diego.