Nearly 80 years after a woman was forced to sell a painting to Nazi officials in order to escape Germany in 1939, a judge in Los Angeles on Tuesday will determine a case brought by her heirs against a museum in Spain that now has the artwork.
Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza has fought the case in U.S. courts for over a decade. The painting is “Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon. Effect of Rain," one of a series by Impressionist master Camille Pissarro, that passed through private hands to Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss art collector who inherited a German steel fortune. Spain's Fundación Thyssen Bornemisza bought the Baron's collection for nearly $340 million. (Read the museum's statement on the lawsuit.)
The Pissarro is valued at around $30 million.
Escaping the coming Holocaust, Lilly Cassirer had to sell the artwork, a gift from her own father, to secure an exit visa from the Nazis. She was later paid $13,000 by the German government for restitution, but she never knew what happenend to the painting. Her son first filed a lawsuit for the Pissarro's return in 2005; after his death, his son David has picked up the case.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter will hear the case on Tuesday without a jury.