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Portrait of a Young Peasant – Beyeler v. Italy
In its judgment of 5 January 2000, the European Court of Human Rights held that the Italian State violated Mr. Beyeler’s right to peaceful enjoyment of his possessions while using its pre-emption right over the Van Gogh painting “Portrait of a Young Peasant”.
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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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Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rascal – Gentili di Giuseppe Heirs v. Italy
In 1941, the painting “Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rascal” by Girolamo Romanino was confiscated by Nazi-controlled French authorities from Federico Gentili di Giuseppe – an Italian of Jewish descent living in Paris – and then sold at auction.
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Two Souza paintings – Kurtha v. Marks
In 1982, Dr Aziz Kurtha purchased two paintings from the Indian artist Francis Souza. They were stolen years later and their ownership changed a number of times, before Michael Marks purchased them on 10 January 2006.
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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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Canon Tables – Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America and J. Paul Getty Museum
The Canon Tables of the Zeyt’un Gospels were illegally separated from the manuscript sometime between 1915-1923. Having discovered that the Tables had been stolen and were held at the J. Paul Getty Museum in California, the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church engaged in a legal battle with the Getty regarding the restitution of the Tables. After five years, the two sides reached a settlement in 2015.
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3000 Archeological Objects – China and Two British Dealers
On 10 February 1998, the Chinese government and two British dealers signed an out-of-court agreement that resolved the question of ownership of over 3000 archaeological objects. Most probably these were transferred to the United Kingdom through illegal excavation and trafficking.
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La Bergère – Meyer Heirs and Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Raoul Meyer’s art collection, which included Camille Pissarro’s painting “La bergère rentrant des moutons”, was looted by Nazi troops during the occupation of France in early 1940s. Decades later, Meyer’s daughter and heir, Léone Meyer, discovered the painting at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, and initiated a lawsuit in the United States seeking its return. After a three-year litigation, the two sides reached a settlement in 2016.
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Poster Collection – Sachs Heirs v. Foundation German Historical Museum
Hans Sachs began collecting posters from the end of the nineteenth century. This collection was considered lost as a result of its seizure by the Nazis in 1937. In 2005, Peter Sachs, as Hans Sachs’ son and sole heir, located his father’s collection at the German Historical Museum and demanded its restitution. A judgment of the German Federal Court of Justice made possible the return of the poster collection to Peter Sachs.
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