Jewish heir’s claim to priceless Pissarro denied by LA courts

A US District Court in Los Angeles has dismissed claims that a painting by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro should be restituted to the heirs of a Jewish woman who was forced to sell the work under the Nazi regime. The decision is part of one of the longest running art restitution cases  in the USA.

The 1887 painting, Rue Saint-Honoré, Après-midi, Effet de Pluie, is currently in the possession of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

The Judge ruled that the law did not require the painting’s return. The museum has been in possession of the painting long enough for it to have acquired full title to the painting under Spanish law.

German Jew Lilly Cassirer and her husband were forced to sell the Pissarro to Nazi authorities for a nominal amount (equivalent to $360) in exchange for their exit visas in 1939. The money was transferred into a blocked account that they were then unable to access.

The painting was acquired by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1976, and has been displayed in the museum since it opened in 1992. The painting is now insured for around 9 million euros, a source told the New York Times.

However, in the conclusion to the ruling, the Judge recommended that the museum should think about the moral dimensions of their position in relation to international agreements concerning art from this era. It should “pause, reflect, and consider whether it would be appropriate to work towards a mutually-agreeable resolution of this action, in light of Spain’s acceptance of the Washington Conference Principles and the Terezin Declaration, and specifically, its commitment to achieve “just and fair solutions” for victims of Nazi persecution.”

The ruling can be read here.

For info about the painting, click here.

Sullivan & Worcester’s legal analysis can be read here.

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