Art law News USA

California court revives Jewish heirs’ case against Spanish museum

The Cassirer family’s long-running fight to recover a painting by Camille Pissarro to continue

The fight wears on over Pissarro's: Rue Saint-Honore, après-midi, effet de pluie , 1897

A California appeals court has revived a lawsuit brought by the heirs of a Nazi victim who are trying to recover a Camille Pissarro painting from the Museo Thyssen-Bournemisza in Madrid.

In the lawsuit, the heirs of Lilly Cassirer Neubauer claim they are entitled to Pissarro’s painting of a Parisian street scene, Rue Saint-Honore, après-midi, effet de pluie (Rue Saint-Honore, afternoon, rain effect), 1897. The heirs say that their ancestor was forced to sell the work when she fled Nazi Germany in 1939. It was acquired by the Museo Thyssen-Bournemisza in 1993.

The long-running lawsuit has been hard-fought. It began in 2005 and since then the original plaintiff, Claude Cassirer, has died; the Kingdom of Spain, initially a defendant, was dismissed from the case.

A lower court had thrown the case out, ruling that a California law extending the statute of limitations to recover stolen art infringed on the President’s exclusive right to conduct foreign affairs under the US Constitution. Without the extension, the heirs would have run out of time to make their claims.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this decision on 9 December, and sent the case back to the lower court for further hearings.

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