OSLO, Norway (AP) -- The family of a prominent Parisian art dealer is
demanding that a Norwegian museum return an Henri Matisse painting
seized by Nazis under the direction of Hermann Goering, in the latest
dispute over art stolen from Jews during World War II.
painting at the center of the dispute, Matisse's 1937 "Blue Dress in a
Yellow Armchair," depicts a woman sitting in a living room. It has been
among the highlights of the Henie Onstad Art Center near Oslo since the
museum was established in 1968 through a donation by wealthy art
collector Niels Onstad and his wife, Olympic figure-skating champion
Museum Director Tone Hansen said it had been unaware
the painting was stolen by the Nazis until it was notified in 2012 by
the London-based Art Loss Register, which tracks lost and stolen
She said Onstad bought the painting in "good faith"
from the Galerie Henri Benezit in Paris in 1950. The Benezit gallery
"has no record of collaborating with the Nazis, as many galleries did,"
she said in an interview.
Although the war ended almost 70 years
ago, disputes over looted art have become increasingly common in recent
years, in part because many records were lost, and in part because an
international accord on returning such art was only struck in 1998.
But the case of the Matisse is somewhat different in that its former
owner, Paul Rosenberg, was one of the most prominent art dealers in
Paris before the war, which he survived by fleeing to New York. Art Loss
Register Director Chris Marinello said the records in this case are
According to a biography published by New York's
Museum of Modern Art, Rosenberg was one of the preeminent modern art
dealers of his day, and personal friends with Picasso and Matisse, among
Art Registry documents show he purchased "Blue Dress"
directly from the painter, having noted the purchase in 1937 and put it
on display in the same year, Marinello said. After the war, Rosenberg
re-established his business and sought to recover more than 400 works
that had been taken by the Nazis.
Marinello showed The Associated
Press documents that name the piece now on display in Norway as among
those missing after the war.
He slammed the Henie Onstad art museum for "stonewalling."
"The evidence is overwhelming. They just don't want to resolve this," he said.
Paul Rosenberg died in 1959. His family has remained prominent, as
his son Alexandre was a war hero and later began his own art dealership.
Among surviving family descendants are Anne Sinclair, the French
journalist and ex-wife of former International Monetary Fund chief
Dominique Strauss Kahn.
Another granddaughter, American lawyer
Marianne Rosenberg, said Friday she didn't wish to antagonize the
museum, but hoped that it would come to realize that it is wrong in
every sense of the term.
The paintings seized from Paul Rosenberg
and other Jewish victims of Nazi aggression were taken "under difficult
conditions, in a cruel and unfair situation," she said in a telephone
interview from her office in New York. "We honor my grandfather Paul's
memory ... by doing what he would have done: we wish to recover that
which we consider ours."
The lawyer representing the museum, Kyre Eggen, said it was significant that Onstad didn't know where the painting came from.
Under Norwegian law, if a person has had an item in good faith for
more than 10 years, that person becomes the rightful owner, he said.
That argument runs against the Washington Conference Principles on
Nazi-Confiscated Art, to which Norway is a party. The principles say
that owners of looted art should take into account the difficulty that
Jewish war survivors faced in reclaiming lost property after the
Holocaust, and that owners of looted art should in all cases seek a fast
and fair solution.
The Seattle Art Museum returned a Matisse to the Rosenberg family in 1999, after initially making similar arguments.
Eggen also argued that it is possible Rosenberg sold the painting himself between 1946 and 1950.
But Marianne Rosenberg rejected that possibility. Art Loss Register
documents show Paul Rosenberg notifying French authorities the piece was
missing in 1946, and his family again listing it as among missing
pieces it was seeking in 1958.
"The Rosenberg family has since the
end of the war assiduously and continuously sought the recovery of the
paintings it lost," she said. "We have never sought to recover paintings
Matisse Painting Stolen By Nazis Reignites Sonja Henie's Dark Past
"Blue Dress in a Yellow Armchair," shows a woman sitting in a drawing room in front of a fireplace with another painting by Matisse hanging over the mantle. It has been prominently displayed at the Henie-Onstad Art Gallery in Oslo from the time the museum was established in 1968. It was gifted by the wealthy art collector Niels Onstad and his wife the Olympic figure-skating champion, Sonja Henie who created the important art collection together.
"Henie's connections with Adolf Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi officials made her the subject of controversy before, during, and after World War II. During her amateur skating career, she performed often in Germany and was a favorite of German audiences and of Hitler personally. As a wealthy celebrity, she moved in the same social circles as royalty and heads of state and made Hitler's acquaintance as a matter of course"(1).
"Controversy appeared first when Henie greeted Hitler with a Nazi salute during an exhibition in Berlin some time prior to the 1936 Winter Olympics; she was strongly denounced by the Norwegian press. She did not repeat the salute at the Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, but after the Games she accepted an invitation to lunch with Hitler at his resort home in nearby Berchtesgaden, where Hitler presented Henie with an autographed photo which included a lengthy inscription. After starting her film career, Henie kept up her Nazi connections by personally arranging with Joseph Goebbels the distribution and release of her first Hollywood film, "One in a Million", in Germany"(2).
The Henie-Onstad Centre in Oslo was only notified about the title dispute in 2012, when the London-based Art Loss Register, an official data-base of lost, stolen and looted works of art contacted them. The ALR have documentation that the Matisse was in the inventory of the Rosenberg Gallery and that it was reported missing to the French authorities as early as 1946. The American lawyer and Rosenberg granddaughter Marianne Rosenberg, stated to AP on Friday that she; "didn't wish to antagonise the museum, but hoped that it would come to realise that it is wrong in every sense of the term", to keep the painting.
Paul Rosenberg was one of the greatest art dealers of his generation. He represented artists including Picasso, Braque, and Matisse. He began his career in his father's antiques business, and worked in England (1902–05) before returning to Paris to open an art gallery (1911). The gallery was successful enough that he opened another premises in England (1935). He emigrated to the U.S. in 1940 to escape Nazi persecution. Rosenberg opened a gallery in New York which he represented Modern American and European artists. The Henie - Onstad Centre in Oslo should now do the right thing and give the painting back to its rightful owners.
Thieves steal Uncle Arthur’s 1934 Nobel Prize medal
Historic Goodwood trophies worth £15,000 stolen near Chichester
A gang of four men swiped the 28 trophies from the Goodwood Estate, near Chichester, in just three minutes.
The trophies were loaded into a Range Rover while builders were working on site.
A spokesman from the estate said he feared they would be melted down and sold as scrap.
The stolen trophies included the Mobil Oil Trophy from 1931, marking victory in motor racing.
The 16.5 inch-high trophy has shallow silver circular bowl sup- ported by winged figures of women.
The 1916 Sheep Trophy – marking the best sheep in show – is a silver-gilt two-handled cup and cover.
Gary Axon, from Goodwood, said CCTV from the night of the burglary showed at least four people in a dark-coloured Range Rover targeting the Home of Golf building.
He said: “They smashed a ground floor window to gain access then smashed four glass display cabinets to steal 33 trophies, two of which were part of the Goodwood chattels and of great historic value to the house and family.
“The remaining trophies were either golf or motor sport related.
“The total value of the haul is believed to be up to £15,000 and the burglary took less than three minutes from start to finish.
“Obviously these trophies would be very hard to sell on and we fear that they could be melted down.
“The trophies which have been taken are irreplaceable.
“They have been in the fam- ily for decades.”
Clubs across the south east were put on high alert last year following a spate of thefts.
In October 20 trophies were taken from West Sussex Golf Club in Pulborough.
Other clubs were targeted in Surrey and Hampshire.
One man, discussing the thefts on Facebook, said: “It’s a smash and grab. They are targeting golf clubs specifically. Put your silver in a safe until they are caught.”
A Sussex Police spokeswoman said: “Police are investigating a burglary at the Goodwood Estate. The burglary took place around 11pm on Monday 11 March.
“Around 28 trophies were stolen dur- ing the burglary.
“Officers would also like to hear from anyone who has been offered trophies to buy.”
Hunt for diamond ring stolen in Hove burglary
A flat on Wilbury Road in Hove was broken into between 6.45am and 1.30pm on March 7.
But the ring, which is of sentimental value to the owner, was only noticed missing on March 24.
Detective Constable Paul Candy from Brighton and Hove Priority Crime Unit said: "The crime was reported to police on 24 March when the victim decided to wear the ring for an evening out and realised that it was missing.
"She is very upset at having been burgled but devastated that an item of such sentimental value has been taken and has offered a reward of £500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the theft.
The ring is described as having a white gold band with diamonds on the face shaped like an eye.
Other items taken during the burglary include cash, a silver Cartier watch and a green Ipod.
Picture of stolen painting released as police hunt for burglars
Several items including two paintings, cash and jewellery were taken during the break-in at East Drive on February 15.
A police spokesperson said: "Extensive enquiries have been undertaken to try and find those responsible for the burglary, but we have been unable to trace them.
"We hope that someone may recognise this painting and it will assist with the investigation.
Woman accused of stealing $30,000 worth of antique figurinesHOUSTON (KTRK) -- A 57-year-old woman is behind bars amid accusations she stole $30,000 worth of antique figurines from a Houston art gallery in southwest Houston.
Patricia DiCoste was arrested Friday at her Bellaire home in connection to the April Fool's Day theft at Simpson Galleries.
Detectives say DiCoste, a frequent customer of the gallery, stole 18 antique Chinese figurines called Buddhist Lohans. They were made during the Qing Dynasty, which dates to the 16th century, and had made their way into the U.S. before a ban on ivory imports was imposed.
The artifacts, which are valued at $30,000, had been at Simpsons on consignment until the gallery's manager received a call on Monday.
"Simpsons had received word from a third party that these particular items had shown up at another gallery. They confirmed that those were their pieces -- promptly went and looked around their warehouse and could not find the items," said Richard Halberd with Homeland Security Investigations.
Authorities say DiCoste sold the figurines to a high-end consignment shop, which then sold them to a Houston-based auction house for $8,000. They were finally seized Wednesday by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations.
"As it turns out, Simpsons Gallery is one of the places we did outreach on and so it's nice to see the fruits of our outreach coming back to us with a lead," Halberd said.
The ivory statues now are being kept at the Harris County District Attorney's Office until they're returned to the gallery.
Meanwhile, DiCoste is being held at the Harris County Jail, waiting arraignment on a charge of felony theft.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Bellaire Police Department.
DiCoste's arrest was conducted in support of Houston HSI's Operation "Hidden Relic" because the figurines are classified as cultural antiquities.
Judge will determine Renoir painting's owner
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A federal judge will seek to unravel an art mystery and determine the rightful owner of a napkin-sized painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that a Virginia woman says she bought at a flea market for $7.
The ownership is in dispute after documents were uncovered showing a Baltimore museum reported the painting stolen more than 60 years ago.
The painting has been seized by the FBI, and the federal government filed an action last month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria asking a judge to determine who should keep the painting.
Among the contenders is a Lovettsville woman, Marcia "Martha" Fuqua, who has told the FBI that she bought the painting at a West Virginia flea market in late 2009 for $7 and stored it in a plastic trash bag for two years before having it authenticated as a genuine Renoir.
Last year, Fuqua planned to have the painting sold at auction, where it was expected to fetch at least $75,000. But the auction was postponed after it was learned that the Baltimore Museum of Art reported the painting stolen in 1951. Records show an insurer, the Fireman's Fund, paid a $2,500 claim on the theft.
According to an appraisal commissioned by the FBI, Renoir painted "Paysage bords de Seine," or On the Shore of the Seine, on a linen napkin in 1879 on the spot at a riverside restaurant for his mistress.
The appraiser says the Renoir's value is about $22,000, much less than the auction house estimated, because Renoir's paintings have fallen out of favor with some art collectors who consider them old fashioned and because questions about the painting's ownership and possible theft diminish its value to collectors.
Fuqua, who had managed to remain anonymous until the court case was filed, told the FBI under penalty of perjury that she bought the painting at a flea market in Harpers Ferry, W. Va., never believing the painting to be a true Renoir, even though a plate reading "RENOIR" is attached to the frame. She describes herself as an "innocent buyer" and questions the FBI's authority to seize the painting.
"Because I am not an art historian, collector, appraiser, or dealer, I lacked the expertise to identify the Renoir Painting's authenticity, origins or previous ownership history," she wrote.
On Friday, The Washington Post reported that Fuqua's 84-year-old mother, who operated an art school for decades in Fairfax County under the name Marcia Fouquet, is an artist who specialized in reproducing paintings from Renoir and other masters. The Post said Fouquet had artistic links to Baltimore in the 1950s, when the painting was stolen, and graduated from Goucher College with a fine arts degree in 1952.
A man who identified himself as Fuqua's brother, Owen M. Fuqua, told the Post that the painting had been in the family for 50 or 60 years and that "all I know is my sister didn't just go buy it at a flea market."
The man later retracted his story, and ultimately said it was another person using his name who gave the initial interview.
Efforts by the AP Friday to reach Martha and Owen Fuqua Friday were unsuccessful. Martha Fuqua's lawyer did not return a call Friday seeking comment.
The FBI has an ongoing investigation, according to spokeswoman Lindsay Godwin.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered all parties seeking to claim ownership of the painting to make their case in written pleadings later this month.
Stolen Picasso Case Takes Stamford Police to NY, London, California
The suspect was caught after stealing a car the day prior to Stamford authorities running his information through the National Crime Information Center, police said.
According to Sgt. Peter DiSpagna, a failed actor who was an acquaintance of an art collector in Stamford stole a sketch from Pablo Picasso's 1938 series of Buste de Femme a la Chaise, which was validated, stamped and registered. The complainant had a number of art pieces in his basement and didn't realize the sketch was missing for approximately 2 years, DiSpagna said.
DiSpagna said the suspect, identified as Terrence Riggins, 48, with a last known residence of Warren St. in Brooklyn, NY, knew the collector while attempting to make it as an actor before falling on hard times. Riggins allegedly ripped the Picasso out of a frame in the complainant's home, causing minor damage to the piece, and selling it to a New York gallery for $1150.
The New York gallery sold the piece to a London art gallery. When that gallery then sold the piece to a collector in Manhattan for $11,000 in January of 2013, the complainant's brother saw the piece being sold online and alerted authorities.
With the help of Interpol and New York investigators, Stamford police finally tracked down the path the sketch traveled to the New York gallery that originally sold the sketch to London and discovered the owner had the information for Riggins, DiSpagna said.
When DiSpagna was preparing to submit Riggins information to various authorities and ran it through NCIC, he discovered Riggins had been arrested the day prior, March 11, on charges that he stole a car in California, where he moved after not making it in New York as an actor.
Riggins waived extradition rights and was picked up by Stamford authorities Wednesday of this week and brought to Connecticut Thursday. He was charged with first-degree larceny and held on a $20,000 bond.
DiSpagna said the sketch would not be returned to the original complainant as the piece had legitimately changed hands a number of times following the alleged theft. Riggins, should he be found guilty, would eventually be responsible for the cost of the sketch to the original owner.
Presently, a lawsuit has been filed in Manhattan federal court against Bavaria over their refusal to return the painting of three of Mendelssohn's relatives. With an estimated worth of $100 million, “Madame Soler” is a 1903 portrait that Picasso did during his popular “Blue Period.”
The suit states that the previous owner of the iconic painting was Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, a Jewish banker and a relative of Felix Mendelssohn’s. Amongst the plaintiffs in the suit are Queens homeowner, Britt-Marie Enhoerning, who holds both American and Swedish citizenship.
Court papers reveal that beginning in the early 1900s, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy assiduously assembled a “singular private modern art collection” of approximately 60 works by such exemplary artists such as Monet, Renoir, Picasso and van Gogh.
Prior to his death of a heart attack in 1935, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy made the painful decision to liquidate his impressive collection as the Nazi party rose to prominence in Germany and began to seize the assets of Jewish owned banks, thus decimating his cash flow.
The NY Post also reports that in 1964, Madame Soler” was eventually sold to the Bavarian State Paintings Collection from the Manhattan apartment of Justin Thannhauser, a Berlin art dealer who fled Germany in 1937. During the war, the painting was consigned him. The sale of the painting to the Bavarian government was “through its agent and incoming director,” who’s identified in the suit as “former Nazi party member Halldor Soehner.”
The court papers also charge that, “When it acquired ‘Madame Soler’ in 1964, Bavaria was planning to sell secretly some 113 paintings that leading former Nazi officials like Herman Göring and Martin Bormann had owned, and to auction these works to unsuspecting buyers to raise money to acquire modern artworks like ‘Madame Soler,’” .
“With ex-Nazi Halldor Soehner directing operations, Bavaria auctioned 106 of these works in 1966-67 by concealing the ownership history of these paintings so that prospective buyers remained unaware that notorious Nazi leaders once had owned them — and that the Nazis in turn may have acquired these works from persecuted Jews”, the papers add.
Although Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s descendants are embroiled in intense legal wrangling with the Bavarian government over the return of “Madame Soler”, they had previously won a $5 million settlement after suing the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum over two other Picassos from his collection. According to the lawsuit, Bavaria has remained adamant in its refusal to return “Madame Soler” and has not agreed to submit the dispute to Germany’s Limbach Commission, which hears claims over Nazi-looted art.
John Byrne Jr, the attorney for the plaintiffs said, “This is a case of great historical importance involving Germany’s most famous Jewish family. We are perplexed and disappointed by Bavaria’s failure to properly address the important issues involved in this matter.”
A spokesman for the German Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
While stubbornly holding on to Jewish owned artwork for over 70 years, some museums in Europe are now beginning the process of returning such works to the owner’s heirs.
According to a recent report in The Guardian newspaper of London, France has agreed to return seven paintings stolen, or forcibly appropriated by the Nazis from their Jewish owners in the 1930s to their families. Four of the seven paintings had been hanging in the Louvre in Paris for decades, known as the world’s most foremost art museum.
The report discloses the fact that the paintings were destined to be displayed in an art gallery that Nazi Chancellor Adolf Hitler planned to build in his native Austria.
As many legitimate heirs of Jewish art collectors who lived in pre-Nazi Europe are now initiating lawsuits against museums who have been reluctant to return the highly valued paintings in question, some museums find themselves with no choice but to hand over the stolen works. As part of the renewed effort by the French government to return looted or misappropriated artworks to their rightful owners, they are starting with these seven paintings.
The Guardian reports that six of the seven works being handed back belonged to Robert Neumann, an Austrian Jew who fled to France and then Cuba, selling some of his collection to fund his escape. The paintings will be given to Neumann’s grandson, Tom Selldorff, 82, who lives in the United States.
The seventh work, by the German painter Pieter-Jansz van Asch, belonged to Josef Wiener, a Prague Jew who died in a German concentration camp, and whose collection was sold by the Nazis in 1941.
Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis purloined about 100,000 paintings, sculptures and other valuable objects in Jewish private collections in Europe. Some were stolen, others were sold under pressure, often to fund an escape from German occupation and the death camps.
In January of this year, a Viennese newspaper called Der Standard reported that the Jewish Museum of Vienna has been in possession of hundreds of books and works of art that may have been stolen by the Nazis.
Der Standard reported that a screening program that started in 2007, years after other Austrian museums began combing their collections for works taken from their rightful owners, had determined that about 500 works of art and 900 books are of dubious origin.
It cited in particular paintings by Jehudo Epstein, who, while abroad in 1936, entrusted 172 works to industrialist Bernhard Altmann for safekeeping. Altmann fled the country in 1938 when Nazi Germany annexed Austria, and his factory was “Aryanized,” the paper said. The Nazis confiscated the paintings and in some cases erased the signature of the artist.
Epstein died in South Africa in 1945. After 1947, his widow tried in vain to track down the paintings, some of which were later sold at auction by Dorotheum, a huge Austrian auction house, the paper said. One of them, “Madchen mit blonden Zopfen” (The Girl With Blonde Braids), was purchased by gallery owner and restaurateur Kurt Kalb.
Several others are now in the Jewish Museum’s collection, the paper said, citing information it got from the museum after many requests.