New episode! We talk to Paul Turbo Hendry about the idea of a Dr. No, a rich person who buys stolen artwork for their personal collection.
Do they exist? Turbo has a few examples.
Subscribe at http://Stitcherpremium.com and get a free month with code FRAMES.
But the oil-on-canvas masterpiece has a dark past: the Nazis strong-armed it away from Lilly Cassirer, whose prominent Jewish family owned an art gallery in Germany in the 1930s.
After years of legal battles, the Cassirer family — with help from prominent Miami lawyer Steve Zack — next week will finally get a chance to convince a federal judge to order Spain to return the priceless work of art. Monday’s trial in a Los Angeles federal court will be closely watched in the art world, and for those who have fought for decades to return art looted by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
For Zack, a former American Bar Association and Florida Bar president, the case has special resonance. He is Jewish. And Zack and his family were forced to flee Cuba by the island’s Communist authoritarian regime.
The odyssey of the Pissarro painting began in 1900, when his exclusive agent sold the work to the Cassirers, who owned a prominent gallery in Berlin. Lilly Cassirer inherited the piece in 1926, and displayed it her parlor. By 1939, as the Nazis were systematically destroying Jewish society and preparing to unleash their war machine on Europe, Cassirer was forced to sell them the painting for a paltry sum in exchange for safe passage out of Germany.
During the war, the Nazis sold the painting to an anonymous buyer. For decades, the Cassirers believed the painting was lost, until a family friend in 2000 spotted it at the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum.
So what happened? The painting — today valued at at least $40 million — wound up in the hands of (Dr No) Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a member of the famous German industrialist family. Records show he had purchased the painting in 1976 from St. Louis collector Sydney Schoenberg through the Stephen Hahn Gallery in New York.
Spain later bought Thyssen-Bornemisza’s art collection for display at the government-run museum that bears his name. The baron died in 2002. For years after the painting was spotted, the Cassirer family repeatedly asked the museum to return the painting.
“There is a widespread recognition by civilized nations that is important to restore looted art to the rightful owners. The Spanish government and the Spanish museum, in this respect, is contrary to international norms. And frankly, it’s reprehensible,” said lawyer David Boies , who also represents the family..
“No evidence of bad faith can be found in the Baron’s ownership of the painting – during which time the painting was publicized and publicly exhibited in international tours between 1979 and 1986, and in the 1988 magazine Architectural Digest,” the museum’s legal team, headed by Thaddeus Stauber, wrote in court documents.
Stauber declined to comment before the trial.
The Cassirer family’s legal team must prove that museum was an encubrador — in Spanish law, an accessory to the theft of the art decades earlier.
They point out that Thyssen-Bornemisza was a sophisticated art buyer who employed a cadre of experts to examine works. When he bought the painting in New York, it still had a label identifying it as part of the Cassirer Gallery in Berlin. Within the art world, it was widely known that the Cassirer painting had been targeted by the Nazis.
“It was easy to find out this was looted,” Boies said.
In the years after the purchase, Thyssen-Bornemisza also fudged details of the purchase to try and hide that he knew the Pissarro was a stolen work of art, according to the lawyers.
The trial is before U.S. District Judge John Walter, and is expected to last at least three days.