Lucas Cranach the Elder

Goudstikker heir files petition for rare rehearing of Cranach claim

Marei von Saher asks an appeals court in California to reconsider her case against the Norton Simon Museum

Cranach's Adam and Eve (around 1530)

A petition has been filed by Marei von Saher with the Ninth Circuit US Court in San Francisco to reconsider its decision last month rejecting her claim to two paintings by Lucas Cranach held at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. Von Saher is the daughter-in-law of the late Jewish Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, whose art collection was seized by the Nazi leader Hermann Göring in 1940, and she has been seeking to recover his works since the 1990s. “I am hopeful that justice—long overdue—will finally be achieved in this case,” von Saher says in a statement.

On 30 July, a three-judge panel upheld an earlier ruling in the museum’s favour, arguing that the issue had already been decided by the Dutch authorities. The petition filed by von Saher’s lawyers on Monday (13 August) is for a rare rehearing en banc, meaning that 11 randomly selected judges from the appellate court would reconsider the case. According to the filing, the new hearing is needed because the most recent ruling conflicts with earlier decisions supporting von Saher’s claim, and because the case “involves the question of whether Nazi-looted artworks should be returned to their original owners, which is an issue of exceptional importance to the United States”.

A representative for the Norton Simon Art Foundation, which owns the two paintings, says in a statement: “The unanimous decision of this panel of the Ninth Circuit was made after a full consideration of the unique facts of this case and the applicable law. We do not believe there is any basis for plaintiff's request for a rehearing.”