Painting Restituted to Heirs

September 4, 2015 Noah Weisberg Charities, Estate & Trust, Ethical Issues, Executors and Trustees, General Interest, In the News, Litigation, News & Events Tags: , , , , , , , 0 Comments

The 2015 movie, Woman in Gold, brought to the mainstream the Nazi appropriation of art throughout Europe and Russia, and the various art Restitution Board proceedings to repatriate art to their proper owner or heir.  For devotees of art, history, and estates, restitution of art continues to appear in the mainstream media providing emotional stories behind beautiful pieces of art, and the steps taken by estate representatives to recover property.

In 2008, the heirs of Saemy Rosenbaum and Isaak Rosenberg (the “Estate“) submitted a request for the return of the 1526 Hans Wertinger painting titled Bildnis Pfalzgraf Johann III (Portrait of ElectorPalantine Johan III).

Apparently, the Nazi Government required the owners, who were art dealers in Frankfurt, to sell the painting in 1936, and place the proceeds of sale into a Nazi Government bank account.  The painting ended up in the hands of an art collector in 1948, who bequeathed it to a museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

The claim for restitution appears to be based on the premise that, although the painting was sold, the owners were not free to make arms-lengths transactions, nor to use the proceeds freely.  An interesting read in the Economist, discusses the process of claiming looted artwork, alleging that it is often opaque, ad-hoc, expensive, and uncertain, given the fact that ownership records may be patchy.

Nonetheless, researchers at the museum have now been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Portrait of ElectorPalantine Johan III was in fact stolen from the original owners.  Therefore, the museum has since returned the looted artwork to the Estate.

Other recent art restitution cases have involved the Seated Woman, by Henri Matisse, and the aforementioned Woman in Gold, painted by Gustav Klimt.

Noah Weisberg

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