Court Lets US Family Try to Get Back Nazi-Looted Masterpiece

7/11/2017

Almost 80 years ago, Lilly Cassirer surrendered her family's priceless Camille Pissarro painting to the Nazis in exchange for safe passage out of Germany during the Holocaust.

For nearly 20 years, the Jewish woman's heirs have been trying to get it back.

On Monday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the family is entitled to its day in court as it makes its case as to why Spain's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum should hand over a painting that has been a centerpiece of its $2 billion collection since 1993.

"It was a very, very good result," the family's attorney, David Boies, said of the court's reversing a 2015 ruling dismissing the family's lawsuit. "It sent a strong message that even public authorities cannot take possession in bad faith of stolen property and then somehow gain title to it simply over the passage of time."

The museum's attorney, Thaddeus J. Stauber, said Spain remains confident it will eventually prevail, adding the museum did indeed acquire the work in good faith.

In Monday's ruling, however, the appeals court concluded the museum previously failed to establish that it did not know the painting was stolen when it acquired it from Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, scion of Germany's Thyssen steel empire and one of the 20th century's most prominent art collectors.

The painting, "Rue St.-Honore, Apres-Midi, Effet de Pluie," is a stunning Impressionist oil-on-canvas piece Pissarro created in 1897 while living in Paris.

Lilly Cassirer's father-in-law acquired it directly from the artist's dealer and passed it on to her and her husband when he died.

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