Art law News France

A hit and a miss in two restitution cases

French legal body rejects one claim while an Australian museum agrees to return a work to Jewish heirs

Head of a Man, initially attributed to Van Gogh, is leaving Australia but Goya's Vieille femme en prière will stay in France

Le Conseil d’Etat, the legal advisory body to the French government, has rejected a request to return three works on paper by Adriaen van Ostade, Francisco de Goya and Honoré Daumier to two Austrian claimants, Friderike Kodric and Eva Heer, according to our sister paper Le Journal des Arts.

The works, which were acquired by a German dealer and then an Austrian gallery between 1940 and 1941, were seized by the US army at the end of the Second World War and entered the collection of the Musées Nationaux Récupération.

Meanwhile, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne has confirmed that it plans to return Head of a Man, 1880s, which was initially attributed to Van Gogh, to the Johannesburg-based heirs of the Jewish industrialist Richard Semmel.

“The gallery acknowledges that the painting was auctioned by Semmel as part of a forced sale in 1933,” a spokeswoman says. The gallery bought the work in 1940. Scholars at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam concluded in 2007 that the painting was made by one of the Dutch artist’s contemporaries.

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