Who Owns a Nazi-Looted Painting by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro?

A federal judge in San Diego recently ruled in favor of a Spanish Foundation that currently holds Danish-French Impressionist Camille Pissarro’s “Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon. Effect of Rain, 1897.” The Foundation was found to be the rightful owner. After 15 years in litigation, the decision is a disappointment for the heirs of the woman who had it taken from her in Nazi Germany. One of the attorneys for the heirs argued that, “The principle involved here—that no person should ever be able to hold good title for a property that has been looted—is a critical principle in today’s world.”

The Madrid-based Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation argued that under Spanish law, it’s presumed to have acquired the painting in good faith.

The parties agreed that Neubauer, the great-grandmother of the plaintiffs, sold the painting.

After numerous appeals and court wrangling, Judge John Walter of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California wrote in his opinion that the trial was limited to two main questions:

  1. Did the Foundation have actual knowledge that the painting was stolen property under Spanish law?
  2. Did the Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (the “Baron”) possess the painting in good faith under Swiss law?

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