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The Actor – Leffmann Heir v. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Before the Second World War, Paul and Alice Leffmann, a couple of German Jews, fled Germany to Italy and then to Brazil. To be able to leave Europe, they sold the painting “The Actor” by Picasso to three art dealers for a fraction of its market value. In 1939, one of the dealers sold the painting to Thelma Foy. Several years later, Thelma Foy donated the painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) of New York. In the 2010s, the great-grandniece of Paul and Alice Leffmanns sued the MET to retrieve the painting.
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Two Schiele Paintings – Grunbaum Heirs v. Richard Nagy
In 1938, the Nazis expropriated the art collection of Fritz Grunbaum while he was detained in Dachau concentration camp. In 2016, the Grunbaum heirs filed suit against Richard Nagy, the art dealer in possession of two of the paintings by Schiele that formed part of Fritz Grunbaum’s collection (“Woman in a Black Pinafore” and “Woman Hiding Her Face”). Eventually, the New York’s Supreme Court directed Nagy to return the artworks to the Grunbaum heirs.
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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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Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin – Metropolitan Museum of Art and Egypt
The gilded Coffin of Nedjemankh, a priest of the ram-god Heryshef, was purchased in 2017 and exhibited in 2018 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Following an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, the Met learned that the Coffin had been looted in 2011, during the Egyptian revolution. It also learned that it had received upon its purchase a false ownership history, fraudulent statements and fake documentation, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license for the coffin. As such, the Met unconditionally returned the coffin to the Government of Egypt.
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Sumpflegende – Héritiers Lissitzky-Küppers et Ville de Munich
Après 25 ans de litige juridique et de négociation, le sort de « Sumpflegende », un tableau de Paul Klee prêté à une galerie allemande en 1926 puis confisqué par les Nazis au titre d’art « dégénéré », est scellé. En juillet 2017, les héritiers de Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, laquelle avait prêté le tableau, concluent un accord avec la Ville de Munich et une fondation privée. L’œuvre reste exposée dans un musée munichois et les héritiers Lissitzky-Küppers sont indemnisés.
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Buste de Diane – Pologne et Auktionshaus im Kinsky
En juin 2015, le Ministère de la culture polonais apprend qu’un buste de Diane, spolié durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale et disparu depuis, va prochainement être vendu à Vienne par la maison de vente Auktionshaus im Kinsky. Le Ministère contacte alors la société Art Recovery International. Avec l’aide de cette dernière et de l’Ambassadeur ainsi que du Consul général de Pologne en Autriche, le buste est restitué à la Pologne le 18 décembre 2015.
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Vallée de la Stour – Héritiers Jaffé et La Chaux-de-Fonds
En 2006, la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fonds reçoit une demande de restitution pour le tableau « La Vallée de la Stour » de John Constable exposé au Musée des beaux-arts de La Chaux-de-Fonds. Le requérant représente les ayants droit héritiers de John et Anna Jaffé, dont les biens, y compris ce tableau, ont été spoliés par les Nazis durant la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. Après avoir d’abord refusé, la Ville accepte de restituer le tableau à l’automne 2017 suite à une procédure de conciliation judiciaire. Le Tableau est restitué aux héritiers le 12 mars 2018.
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Masque Nalindele – Zambie et Personne privée
En juin 1989 le Masque Nalindele est volé au Musée national de Livingston en Zambie. En 1996 un antiquaire l’acquière à Paris. Apprenant qu’il s’agit d’un objet volé, il décide de le restituer aux autorités belges que le restitueront par la suite à la Zambie.
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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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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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