N.Y. woman's lawsuit revived over art looted by Nazis
NEW YORK — 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, Calif., 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.
Von Saher is Goudstikker's only surviving heir.
The Norton Simon Art Foundation, much of whose collection is housed in the museum, in a statement said it “remains confident that it holds complete and proper title to Adam and Eve,” and will pursue its appropriate legal options.
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.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- HealthCare.gov website’s security flaws put users’ personal info at risk
- Wallenda’s next challenge: Chicago
- Astronauts to hitch U.S. ride to space station
- Astronauts to hitch U.S. ride to space station
- 3,000 U.S. troops to join fight against Ebola with $763M plan
- Door left ajar to boots on ground to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
- White House committed to ethanol, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack says
- Medal of Honor awarded to veterans of Vietnam War
- ATF told to pay ex-agent $173K
- U.S. will increase aid to Ebola-stricken Africa
- Florida socialite’s lawsuit vs. feds in Petraeus scandal OK’d to proceed