A Los Angeles federal judge ruled that a Spanish museum is the rightful owner of a 19th century painting that a San Diego family contends belongs to them, court papers obtained Tgursday show.
U.S. District Judge John Walter determined that the Spanish government could not be compelled to return Camille Pissarro’s “Rue Saint-Honore: Afternoon, Rain Effect,” which depicts a 19th century Paris street scene and is valued at $20 million, to the heirs of Holocaust survivor Lilly Cassirer.
Cassirer’s survivors say that she was forced to sell the painting to escape the Nazis in 1939.
The Cassirer family sued Spain’s government in 2005, along with the foundation that runs the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, where the 1897 painting is on display.
The foundation and Spanish government moved to have the case dismissed by a lower court judge in Los Angeles, who rejected their arguments.
Both entities appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the case could go forward against them.
According to Cassirer’s court papers, his grandmother was forced to sell the oil painting for a “pittance” — about $360 — in exchange for a visa to escape from Nazi Germany.
Swiss industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemiszain acquired the painting in 1976, and in 1993, the Spanish government bought his collection, including the painting, for $327 million, and placed it on display in the Madrid museum named for the art collector, according to the lawsuit.
The Cassirers filed the suit in U.S. District Court following a Supreme Court decision allowing U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments in federal court over art plundered during the Nazi regime.
— City News Service