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Knoedler and Seattle Art Museum settle over Matisse lawsuit

In 1954 Knoedler sold picture stolen from Paul Rosenberg by Nazis

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and Knoedler & Co. announced on 12 October that they had settled, on mutually satisfactory terms, SAM’s lawsuit seeking compensation for its loss of the painting “Odalisque” (1928) by Henri Matisse. The case was scheduled for trial in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington.

As part of the settlement, Knoedler will transfer to SAM one or more significant works of art to be selected by the museum from Knoedler's holdings, or the equivalent value in cash. The value agreed by the parties has not been disclosed. SAM sued Knoedler for the full fair market value of the Matisse painting, estimated at about $2 million.

“It was important for the Seattle Art Museum to restore the painting to the Rosenberg heirs and to have pursued questions relating to its provenance on behalf of our donors,” said Mimi Gardner Gates, SAM director. “We are pleased that the museum and Knoedler Gallery have resolved their dispute.”

Knoedler will also reimburse SAM for the legal fees and costs incurred by the museum in the lawsuit. The dealer will also waive its right to collect from SAM over $96,000 in its attorneys' fees in respect of a certain phase of the lawsuit, which Judge Robert S. Lasnik recently ordered SAM to pay Knoedler at the end of trial (The Art Newspaper No.107, October 2000, p.5). SAM agreed to withdraw all of its allegations of fraud and negligent misrepresentation against Knoedler.

The museum received “Odalisque”, also known as “Orientale Casaque Brodée”, in 1991 from its Washington donors, Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, who bought it from Knoedler in 1954.

In 1997, heirs of Paul Rosenberg, a prominent Jewish art dealer in Paris before World War II, informed the museum that the painting had been stolen from Rosenberg by the Nazis during World War II.

Rosenberg’s heirs sued SAM for the painting. After researching the painting's provenance, SAM agreed with the heirs and conveyed “Odalisque” to them in June 1999. The museum then sued Knoedler for the value of the painting.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'US dealers and Seattle museum settle over Matisse lawsuit'