The Supreme court on Thursday ruled in favor of the heirs of a Jewish art collector whose 19th century painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1939.
The court unanimously agreed to hear a lawsuit by descendants of the Cassirer family who have been seeking a legal means to force a Spanish museum to return a painting by impressionist Camille Pissarro to them as heirs of the rightful owner.
The decision overturned rulings by lower courts that sided with the property laws of Spain over those of California, where the lawsuit was filed. Justice Elena Kagan, writing the decision, said that while the museum holding the painting is located in Spain, it should be treated the same as a private entity under California law, The Hill reported.
The Cassirers have spent eight decades trying to get back the painting “Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain,” which was purchased by German Jewish art collector Paul Cassirer from the artist Pissarro in 1900. His sister Lilly Cassirer was forced by the Nazis to sell the painting for only $360 in order to gain a visa to leave Germany.
The painting is now worth around $40 million.
“We are obviously pleased,” said the family’s lawyer David Boies in a statement. “It is a great day for the Cassirer family and for all who care about justice.”
In the years after World War II, a court ruled that the Cassirers were the owners of the painting. But they didn’t locate it for another five decades. Claude Cassirer, Lilly’s grandson, found the artwork in the Spanish museum and sued in 2005 to have it returned. But the case hit roadblocks and has been in the legal system ever since.
“The path of our decision has been as short as the hunt for Rue Saint-Honoré was long; our ruling is as simple as the conflict over its rightful owner has been vexed,” Kagan wrote. “A foreign state or instrumentality in [a Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act] suit is liable just as a private party would be.”
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of the Seventh Day of Passover in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.