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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Nazi Picasso

Picasso's $60m painting not for sale
November 7, 2006

An American judge halted the sale of a Picasso artwork valued at $60-million after a German man claimed his ancestor was forced by the Nazis to sell it.

Late on Monday New York judge Jed Rakoff temporarily blocked the art foundation controlled by British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber from selling Pablo Picasso's 1903 The Absinthe Drinker (Angel Fernandez de Soto) at Christies New York auction house after Julius Schoeps claimed he was the rightful owner of the work.

Christies had planned to sell the painting, which it valued at $40-million to $60-million, at auction on Wednesday.

In a lengthy court complaint describing the 1930s German Nazi government's mistreatment of Jews and theft of artwork, Schoeps alleged that an ancestor of his, Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, under Nazi oppression in 1934, was forced to sell the artwork along with several other masterpieces "into a depressed market".

Schoeps argued to the New York federal district court in the suit that the sale constituted giving up the artworks under duress related to Nazi persecution of Jews and that gives him claim to the painting, as an heir of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

Rakoff ordered representatives of the current owners of the painting, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation, to appear in court on Tuesday to defend their right to sell the painting.

- Sapa-AFP

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