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89 Moche Artifacts – Peru v. Johnson
After the discovery of the Moche site of Sipán (Peru) in the mid-eighties, many 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 artifacts 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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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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Ka Nefer Nefer Mask – United States v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer
On July 28, 2014, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request of the United States Government to take further legal action regarding the St. Louis Art Museum’s ownership of the 3200 year old Egyptian Ka Nefer Nefer funerary mask.
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Hopi Masks – Hopi Tribe v. Néret-Minet and Estimations & Ventes aux Enchères
Between 2013 and 2014, dozens of Hopi’s sacred objects were sold at auctions in Paris despite strong protests and legal actions launched by the Hopi tribe. These actions were unsuccessful because French judicial authorities denied legal standing to the Hopis and considered that the sales did not violate French law.
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Madonna and Child with Wild Roses – Gross-Eisenstadt Heirs and Utrecht City Council
German-Jewish businessman Richard Semmel had an extensive art collection which he was forced to sell after fleeing Jewish persecution in Germany. Among this collection was the painting “Madonna and Child with Wild Roses” by Jan van Scorel.
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Mercedes Shipwreck – Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. v. Unidentified Shipwrecked Vessel
In 2007, Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. found a shipwreck of the Spanish Royal Navy Frigate Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, loaded with many tonnes of coins. Odyssey filed an in rem action in the United States federal court to get legal title to the shipwreck and the coins, but the court found that they did not have the jurisdiction to decide the case according to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. As a result, the Mercedes and its cargo were given over to the custody of Spain.
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Portrait of a Youth – Reichel Heirs v. Sarah Blodgett Dunbar
In the mid-2000s, Claudia Seger-Thomschitz, one of the heirs of Oskar Reichel, attempted to recover the painting “Portrait of a Youth” from Sarah Blodgett Dunbar on the grounds that it had been lost as a result of Nazi persecution. The 2010 appeal decision of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals settled the case in favour of Sarah Blodgett Dunbar.
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Gravures Dja Dja Wurrung – Musée de Melbourne c. Dja Dja Wurrung
Au printemps 2004, le Musée de Melbourne organise une exposition d’œuvres sur écorces aborigènes. Parmi les biens présentés figurent deux anciennes gravures sur écorces prêtées par le British Museum et les Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. La tribu australienne Dja Dja Wurrung bloque le retour de ces objets en Angleterre. Après des négociations et une médiation infructueuses avec les représentants Dja Dja Wurrung, le Musée de Melbourne intente une action judiciaire.
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Cranach Diptych – Goudstikker Heirs and Norton Simon Museum
The Cranach diptych “Adam and Eve” was presumably part of Jacques Goudstikker’s collection looted by the Nazis during the Second World War. For several years, Goudstikker’s sole heir, Marei von Saher, and the Norton Simon Museum have led unsuccessful negotiations regarding the heir’s restitution claim. Notwithstanding the support received by the State of California and by several organizations, Marei von Saher’s claims in replevin were dismissed by both the District Court for the Central District of California and by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The heir’s battle is still ongoing.
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