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Quedlinburg Treasures – Quedlinburg Church and Meador Heirs
After the withdrawal of US troops from the medieval town of Quedlinburg in Nazi Germany, the “Quedlinburg Treasures” were found to be missing. This theft was perpetrated by US soldier Joe T. Meador. After his death, the manuscripts passed on to his brother and sister who attempted to sell them. Some manuscripts were purchased by West German entities, whereas the Church of Quedlinburg purchased the rest of the treasures pursuant to a settlement agreement with the Meador Heirs.
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89 Moche Archaeological Objects – Peru v. Johnson
After the discovery of the Moche site of Sipán (Peru) in the mid-eighties, many archaeological objects were looted and smuggled out of the country. In 1987, a smuggler who had been involved in the exportation of these objects to the United States contacted United States Customs agents and led to the eventual seizure of 89 Moche artifacts from Benjamin Johnson, a private collector. The government of Peru sued to retrieve the artifacts from Johnson. Peru’s claim was unsuccessful and the 89 archaeological objects remained in Johnson’s possession.
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Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory – Konowaloff v. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ivan Morozov’s extensive art collection, which included the painting by Cézanne called Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory, was confiscated by the Bolsheviks and declared property of the state. Stephen Clark purchased Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory from the Second Museum of Western Art in 1933. Upon his death, he bequeathed the painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Pierre Konowaloff, Morozov’s heir, brought an action for restitution of the painting in the United States federal courts. His claim was unsuccessful and the Metropolitan Museum of Art retained the painting.
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Portrait of Greta Moll – Moll Heirs v. National Gallery of London
The “Portrait of Greta Moll” has been subject to a claim for return. The heirs of the painting’s subject argued the painting was stolen in the aftermath of the Second World War and claimed that the National Gallery of London did not purchase the work in good faith. The case has been heard in two courts of the United States.
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Die Grosse Seestrasse in Wannsee – X. v. Switzerland
The painting “Die Grosse Seestrasse in Wannsee” was bought in 1948 by François de Diesbach. After de Diesbach’s death, the painting was forgotten within the Swiss embassy. When the Swiss embassy decided to donate the painting to the Liebermann Villa, a distant relative of de Diesbach seized a Swiss court and claimed ownership over the painting. The High Court of the Canton of Bern ultimately held that the Swiss Confederation had acquired ownership over the painting.
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200 Paintings – Goudstikker Heirs and the Netherlands
The art collection of Jacques Goudstikker was acquired by the Nazi commander Hermann Göring under suspicious circumstances during the Second World War. A large part of the collection was recovered by the Allied Forces after the war and it was subsequently returned to the Netherlands where it was labelled “Dutch national property”. The first part of these items was bought back by Goudstikker’s wife under a settlement agreement of 1952. The Dutch Government returned the second part – 200 paintings – to Marei Von Saher (the only surviving heir of Jacques Goudstikker) in 2006 based on a recommendation of the Dutch Restitution Committee.
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Ancient Coins – Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. United States
In an attempt to challenge import regulations in force in the United States (US), the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) imported into the US 23 ancient coins, which were seized by customs officials. The case was litigated from 2007 to 2019, with courts consistently deciding in favour of the US Government and the import restrictions remaining in place.
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Etruscan Black-Figured Kalpis – Italy and Toledo Museum of Art
After an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations, the Toledo Museum of Art returned in 2013 an Etruscan black-figure kalpis to Italy. The kalpis was found to be smuggled out of Italy after an illegal excavation prior to 1981, then sold to the Toledo Museum of Art in 1982 by Gianfranco and Ursula Becchina, who had earlier purchased it from the art smuggler Giacomo Medici.
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Sarcophage romain – I. SA c. Ordonnance de restitution et Turquie
Fin 2010, lors d’un contrôle d’inventaire aux Ports francs de Genève, l’Administration fédérale des douanes découvre un exceptionnel sarcophage romain représentant les douze travaux d’Hercule. Suspicieuse, l’Administration séquestre le bien. La Turquie se constitue comme partie plaignante dans la procédure pénale ouverte à Genève, se déclarant légitime propriétaire du sarcophage. En 2015, le Ministère public genevois ordonne la restitution de l’objet à la Turquie. Le détenteur du sarcophage recourt en vain devant la Cour de Justice puis au Tribunal fédéral, avant de se rétracter. L’objet doit donc être restitué à la Turquie, mais personne n’a été condamné
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Five Italian Paintings – Gentili di Giuseppe Heirs v. Musée du Louvre and France
In 1998, the heirs of the renowned Jewish art collector Federico Gentili di Giuseppe sued the Louvre Museum seeking the restitution of five paintings. These paintings, which were part of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe’s collection, were bought at auction by Herman Göring in 1941 and transferred to the Musée du Louvre at the end of the Second World War.
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