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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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Five Schiele Watercolors – Leopold Museum and Eva Zirkl
Karl Mayländer, a Jewish businessman and art collector, was deported from Austria to occupied Poland and later killed in the Holocaust. Before leaving, he left his art collection to his partner who later sold it. Five Schiele watercolors from his collection came into the possession of the Leopold Museum. Negotiations between the museum and Eva Zirkl, Mayländer’s heir, concluded with the return of two of the five watercolors to Zirkl.
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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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La Frise Beethoven – Héritiers Lederer c. Autriche
En 2013, les héritiers du collectionneur Enrich Lederer demandent la restitution de la « Frise Beethoven » de Klimt à l’État autrichien. Cette Frise avait été spoliée à Vienne à la famille Lederer par les nazis avant d’être restituée à Enrich Lederer à la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Par la suite, Enrich Lederer l’avait vendue à l’État autrichien tout en clamant qu’il n’avait pas d’autre choix.
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Biccherna Panel – Anonymous Heirs and British Library
In 2013, the British Library was contacted by the heirs of A.S. Drey, a Munich firm whose assets were sold off by Nazis in 1936. The heirs requested the return of the “Biccherna Panel” and lodged a claim with the UK Spoliation Advisory Panel, which found in favour of the claimants. However, following negotiations, the heirs accepted compensation in lieu of return, allowing the Biccherna Panel to remain in the British Library.
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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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Pulcinell Sculpture – Budge Heirs v. Anonymous Purchaser
A sculpture of Pulcinell was purchased by an anonymous buyer at auction in London in 2016. The buyer applied for an export license and the case came before the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest of the United Kingdom. During the review, it was discovered that the sculpture had been subject to forced sale by Nazis in 1937. The heirs of Emma Budge, the dispossessed owner of the sculpture, discovering what had become of the sculpture, attempted to secure its restitution.
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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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Great Zimbabwe Bird – Zimbabwe and Prussia Cultural Heritage Foundation, Germany
The lower half of a stone bird discovered in Zimbabwe under dubious circumstances was bought by the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin around 1907. During the Second World War, the stone was removed by the Russian Army. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was returned to the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin. In 2000, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation – which managed the collection of this museum – under the pressure of the German federal government finally returned the fragment of the stone bird to Zimbabwe under the terms of a permanent loan.
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