The Pissarro painting, appropriated by the Nazis 77 years ago, will be returned to the collector's family
The Supreme Court of Appeal of France rejected the lawsuit of the American couple, who demanded to recognize their rights to the impressionist painting Camille Pissarro. The scene "Pea Harvest" was bought at an auction, but it turned out that it was forcibly seized during the Second World War from a collector of Jewish origin.
The final verdict put an end to a three-year trial. This means that about 20 descendants of the entrepreneur Simon Bauer finally got ownership of the canvas 77 years after its confiscation. Throughout the hearing, the painting was kept at the Orsay Museum in Paris.
Collectors Bruce and Robbie Toll bought the painting "Pea Harvest" at Christie’s auction in New York in 1995 for 800 thousand dollars. They insist that at that time they did not know that it was appropriated by the Nazis. However, the Court of Cassation rejected their appeal and upheld the decision of the previous courts that it should be returned firmly to the family of the Jewish collector. The ruling states that even if the Tolls faithfully acquired the painting, "they cannot claim to have become rightful owners."
American lawyer Ron Soffer said they plan to call the French state to account in the European Court of Human Rights. The Tolls are unhappy because “in the end, it was they who had to pay for the crimes committed by the Vichy regime,” the lawyer said. And he added that the decision "opens the Pandora's box for courts."
Supporters of the Vichy regime - the anti-Semitic government of France, collaborating with the Nazis - in 1943 confiscated 93 paintings from the Bauer collection. The entrepreneur himself died in 1947, two years after the end of World War II. He was kept in the notorious Drancy concentration camp near Paris, from where tens of thousands of Jews were taken to Nazi death camps. Bauer himself has passed this fate.
After the war, he managed to regain several paintings, but the work “Pea Harvest”, which Pissarro painted in 1887, was lost. Bauer's heirs started a lawsuit after they saw the painting in the catalog of the exhibition at the Marmottan-Monet Museum in Paris in 2017. The canvas was borrowed from Tolls for a retrospective of the artist's work.