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Judicial claim/action en justice

Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory – Konowaloff v. Metropolitan Museum of Art

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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Manuscrit du Marquis de Sade – Héritier Nordmann et héritier de Noailles et Gérard Lhéritier

Manuscrit du Marquis de Sade – Héritier Nordmann et héritier de Noailles et Gérard Lhéritier

Les « Cent Vingt Journées de Sodome » du Marquis de Sade avait été dérobé à la famille de Nouailles puis acquis par un collectionneur suisse – Gérard Nordmann – qui a toujours refusé de la rendre. C’est grâce à un accord entre l’héritier des Nouailles et l’héritier Nordmann que le manuscrit a pu retourner en France, où il a été classé trésor national en 2017.

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Maori Panels – New Zealand and Ortiz Heirs

Maori Panels – New Zealand and Ortiz Heirs

In 1972, five rare Maori wooden panels were discovered in a swamp in New Zealand’s North Island. Shortly after the discovery, the panels were illegally exported out of the country by an antiquities dealer and then bought by Swiss collector George Ortiz. In 2014 New Zealand obtained the return of the Maori panels by virtue of an agreement with the heirs of Ortiz.

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Matisse Painting – Jeanneret v. Vichey

Matisse Painting – Jeanneret v. Vichey

A painting by Henri Matisse was unlawfully exported from Italy to New York because its owner, Anna Vichey, never acquired the mandatory export license in 1970. The painting was then sold to a Swiss art dealer named Marie Jeanneret and delivered to Geneva, Switzerland. After discovering the cloud on the title of the painting, Mme. Jeanneret was unable to sell the painting.

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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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Mosaïques de Kanakaria – Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus et Chypre c. Goldberg

Mosaïques de Kanakaria – Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus et Chypre c. Goldberg

Quatre mosaïques sont volées dans l’Eglise chypriote du village de Lythrankomi. Une dizaine d’années plus tard, elles sont achetées par Goldberg, une commerçante d’art américaine. L’Eglise chypriote finit par apprendre le lieu où se trouvent les mosaïques et la personne en possession de celles-ci. Peu après, l’Eglise chypriote et la République de Chypre introduisent une action en justice auprès des tribunaux de l’Etat de l’Indiana aux Etats-Unis.

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Murals of Teotihuacán – Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and National Institute of Anthropology and History

Murals of Teotihuacán – Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and National Institute of Anthropology and History

In 1978, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco became the owner of a number of murals from the world-famous Aztec site of Teotihuacán (Mexico). The Mexican Government failed in its attempts to obtain the return of these wall paintings through a court action in the United States.

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Nataraja Idol – India and the Norton Simon Foundation

Nataraja Idol – India and the Norton Simon Foundation

In 1956, an ancient bronze statue of the Lord Siva (Lord of the Cosmic Dance or Sivapuram Nataraja) was removed from a temple in India for restoration purposes, subsequently held by an Indian private collector and ultimately sent to the United States with false export documents. In 1973, the Nataraja idol was sold by a New York dealer to the Norton Simon Foundation.

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Odalisque Painting – Paul Rosenberg Heirs and Seattle Art Museum

Odalisque Painting – Paul Rosenberg Heirs and Seattle Art Museum

In June 1999, the Seattle Art Museum returned the painting Oriental Woman Seated on Floor (also known as Odalisque), by Henri Matisse, to the heirs of Paul Rosenberg. The painting was donated to the museum in 1991 by the Bloedel family.

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On the Shore of the Seine – United States v. Baltimore Museum of Art

On the Shore of the Seine –  United States v. Baltimore Museum of Art

In 1951, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s painting “On the shore of the Seine” was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in the United States. Over fifty years later, Marcia Fuqua bought this painting for US $7 at a flea market and tried to auction it off after learning of its value.

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Pièces d’or géantes – Inde c. Crédit Agricole Indosuez SA

Pièces d’or géantes –  Inde c. Crédit Agricole Indosuez SA

Deux pièces d’or géantes anciennes d’une valeur exceptionnelle, tant d’un point de vue économique que culturel, sont mises en gage auprès d’une Banque à Genève par le petit-fils de l’ancien Nizam de la Principauté d’Hyderabad. L’Inde introduit une action auprès des tribunaux genevois dans le but d’en obtenir la restitution.

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Portrait d’Isabelle d’Este – Cecchini c. Italie

Portrait d’Isabelle d’Este – Cecchini c. Italie

Dans le cadre d’une procédure pénale, le procureur du Tribunal de Pesaro (Italie) a adressé à la Suisse une demande d’entraide judiciaire portant sur un tableau attribué à Leonardo da Vinci qui aurait été transféré d’Italie en Suisse, par sa propriétaire, sans l’autorisation des autorités italiennes. Après avoir fait séquestrer le tableau, le Ministère public du Tessin ordonne la remise de ce dernier à l’Italie. La propriétaire de l’œuvre recourt contre cette décision jusqu’au Tribunal fédéral, qui casse la décision précédente.

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Portrait of a Young Peasant – Beyeler v. Italy

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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Portrait of a Youth – Reichel Heirs v. Sarah Blodgett Dunbar

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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Portrait of Greta Moll – Moll Heirs v. National Gallery of London

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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Portrait of Wally – United States and Estate of Lea Bondi and Leopold Museum

Portrait of Wally – United States and Estate of Lea Bondi and Leopold Museum

After having been taken from Lea Bondi, a Jew forced to flee Austria following the Anschluss, the painting “Portrait of Wally” by Egon Schiele was seized by the US Forces at the end of the war. The portrait was first returned by the US Restitution Division to the Austrian Federal Office for Preservation of Historical Monument (BDA).

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Poster Collection – Sachs Heirs v. Foundation German Historical Museum

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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Quedlinburg Treasures – Quedlinburg Church and Meador Heirs

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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Sarcophage romain – I. SA c. Ordonnance de restitution et Turquie

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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Schiele Drawing – Grunbaum Heirs v. David Bakalar

Schiele Drawing – Grunbaum Heirs v. David Bakalar

In 1938, the Nazi expropriated the art collection of Fritz Grunbaum while he was detained in Dachau concentration camp. In 1963, David Bakalar purchased a Schiele drawing that had belonged to the Grunbaum family from a gallery in Bern.

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