Art law Museums France

Stop spitting on great-grandpa's painting

The Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac’s great-granddaughter is fighting in court to have vandalised work moved from suburban town hall to Musée d’Orsay

Signac's In the Time of Harmony,1893-95, in the Montreuil town hall

A legal battle over a key painting by the Neo-Impressionist artist Paul Signac (1863-1935), which has been housed at the town hall of the Parisian suburb Montreuil since the 1930s, is due to go to court 18 September in France.

Signac’s great-granddaughter, Charlotte Liebert Hellman, filed a lawsuit demanding that the work be transferred immediately to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris after the piece, which hangs in a staircase, was vandalised in December.

Damp paper pellets were thrown at the work, leaving marks and tears on the canvas. The large-scale painting in the Pointillist style, entitled In the Time of Harmony,1893-95, was donated to Montreuil council by Berthe Robles, Signac’s widow, in 1938.

According to Agence-France Presse, Liebert Hellman argues that the work should be moved to the Musée d’Orsay for safekeeping. Montreuil council, however, defended its security and conservation measures, saying the painting had been repaired in collaboration with the regional office of the ministry of culture. “This restoration has, according to specialists, been exemplary,” the council said in a press statement.

Yves Badetz, the head of acquisitions at the Musée d’Orsay, says “the [museum] is behind Liebert Hellman”, adding that “we are ready to commission a copy [of the work for Montreuil town hall] so that the painting can be cared for at the museum”. According to the council, however, Guy Cogeval, the president of the Musée d’Orsay, has not yet met the mayor of Montreuil to discuss the situation.

Liebert Hellman is the daughter of the late Françoise Cachin, a former director of the Musée d’Orsay.

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Comments

20 Aug 12
3:47 CET

JOHNSHIELD, LONDON

Should stay in Montreuil that's where the donation stipulated it should be . Sounds like a move to get to a more prestigious resting place .

16 Aug 12
17:1 CET

JASON EDWARD KAUFMAN, NEW YORK

The copy is a good idea, but the town will demand something more - unless the family has legal right to modify the donation. Meanwhile, have the geniuses considered non-reflective Plexi?

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