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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

9th Circuit to Rehear Nazi-Looted Art Case

(CN) - The 9th Circuit agreed to rehear the case of a California man who wants Spain to return a Camille Pissarro painting that was allegedly looted by German Nazis in 1939 and is now on display in Madrid.

In September, a three-judge panel allowed Claude Cassirer to sue Spain and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation to recover the painting, "Rue Saint-Honoré, Après-midi, Effet de Pluie," which Nazis allegedly stole from his grandmother.

Cassirer said Nazis forced his grandmother to sell the painting for $360 before she could flee the country. The painting was then traded to an art dealer who also fled Germany to Holland and took the painting with him.

The painting was confiscated and returned to Germany, where it was sold at auction in 1943. It resurfaced at a New York gallery in 1952, and changed hands a few times before it was sold to Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, "a resident of Switzerland and one of the world's foremost private art collectors," the ruling states.

Spain paid $50 million in 1988 to lease the collector's collection, and later paid $327 million for his entire collection.

Cassirer discovered that the painting was on display in 2000, but his request to Spanish officials that it be returned was denied. In 2003, five U.S. congressmen wrote to the minister asking for the return of the painting, but were again denied, according to the ruling.

Cassirer sued the foundation and Spain in May 2005 in Los Angeles Federal Court, but never filed suit in Germany or Spain.

The 9th Circuit panel said Spain can't assert protection under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, even though it didn't actually steal the painting, because the law makes an exception for the recovery of property, regardless of where it was allegedly stolen.

Last week, the judges voted to rehear the case before the full court.

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