The heirs of a Jewish couple are seeking the return of a Picasso painting they say was sold under duress as they fled Nazi Germany in 1938.
The family is suing for the return of one of Pablo Picasso’s “Blue Period” paintings that is currently is the possession of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, CNN reported.
The descendants of Karl Adler and Rosi Jacobi want the return of Picasso’s 1904 painting "Woman Ironing (La repasseuse).” Their lawsuit alleges that the couple were forced to sell the priceless artwork as they fled Nazi persecution in Germany in 1938.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court last Friday, details how Adler, who had purchased the painting in 1916 from the Munich gallery of Heinrich Thannhauser, was forced to sell it back to Thannhauser's son in 1938 for far below market value.
"Adler would not have disposed of the painting at the time and price that he did, but for the Nazi persecution to which he and his family had been, and would continue to be, subjected," the lawsuit claims.
In 1938, the Adlers fled Germany, through several European nations, eventually settling in Argentina.
"The Adlers needed large amounts of cash just to obtain short-term visas during their exile in Europe. Unable to work, on the run, and not knowing what the future would hold for them, the Adlers had to liquidate what they could to quickly raise as much cash as possible," according to the complaint.
The family is charging that Thannhauser was unethically “profiting” from the difficulty circumstances of German Jews, and that "Thannhauser was well-aware of the plight of Adler and his family, and that, absent Nazi persecution, Adler would never have sold the painting when he did at such a price.”
They are asking for the painting’s return or to be compensated with the current market value of the work, estimated to be between $100 and 200 million dollars, the lawsuit stipulates.
The Guggenheim Museum said in a statement that it looks at all "provenance matters and restitution claims extremely seriously," but described the suit as "without merit,” according to CNN.