High Court Won't Hear $24 Million Nazi Art Dispute Involving Pasadena Museum

Published : Monday, May 20, 2019 | 7:01 PM

Two Renaissance-era paintings looted by the Nazis during World War II will remain at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena after the U.S. Supreme Court on May 20 declined to get involved in the case.

The decision leaves in place a ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2018 granting possession of the paintings, appraised at $24 million, to the museum.

The works themselves, believed to date from 1530, are masterpieces by German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder, and depict Adam and Eve on two separate life-size panels.

The Norton Simon Museum acquired them in 1971 after purchasing the pair for $800,000 from Russian art collector George Stroganoff, who bought them from the Dutch government in 1966.

In 2007, Marei von Saher sought to recover the paintings that she said were among a group of artworks taken by the Nazis in a forced sale from her father-in-law, Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, during World War II.

In the case filed in the Federal Court for the Central District of California, von Saher said the paintings, collectively called the Cranachs, should be returned to her as Goudstikker’s sole surviving heir. The Norton Simon Museum countered by saying von Saher was time-barred from bringing the suit because the statute of limitations had expired decades ago.

The Ninth Circuit which ruled that the Dutch government owned the title to the works when officials sold the paintings to Stroganoff. The three-judge panel applied the “act of state” doctrine, which requires that the acts of foreign sovereigns taken within their own jurisdictions shall be deemed valid.

A second appeal by von Saher’s lawyers was denied a month later.

Monday’s Supreme Court decision denies a petition for certiorari filed by the heiress’ lawyers.






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