Health Care

New York's Met can keep Picasso sold during Nazi flight: judge

New York's Met can keep Picasso sold during Nazi flight: judge”

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY by the estate of a German-Jewish businessman seeking the return of a Picasso painting sold in order to flee the Nazis.

In what might be one of the most insensitive decisions regarding Jewish property appropriated between 1933 and 1945, Judge Loretta A. Preska, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of NY, ruled against Leffmann's estate, arguing that "although the Leffmanns felt economic pressure during the undeniably horrific circumstances of the Nazi and Fascist regimes, that pressure, when not caused by the counterparties to the transaction (or the defendant) where the duress is alleged, is insufficient to prove duress with respect to the transaction".

But a lawyer for the Leffmann estate, Howard Spiegler, of the law firm Herrick Feinstein, said, "Our client is very disappointed with the decision and intends to appeal". The museum also had no immediate comment.

The Leffmanns fled Nazi Germany for Italy in 1937.

The work was then sold for US$22,500 in 1941 to Ms Thelma Chrysler Foy, an automobile heiress, who donated it to the Met, where it has remained ever since.

Preska concluded that the 1938 transaction "occurred between private individuals, not at the command of the Fascist or Nazi governments", and not because of a "wrongful threat" by the buyers that took away Leffmann's free will.

The judge's ruling states that the Leffmanns "negotiated with several parties prior to the 1938 transaction, rejected offers from other dealers, and attempted to "improve [their] leverage to maximize" the sales price before ultimately accepting an offer from Perls and Rosenberg, the proceeds of which the Leffmanns retained and used in later years".

The 1904-5 oil-on-canvas painting depicts an attenuated male figure gesturing with his right hand.

The Met refused to hand over the painting after the Leffmanns' estate demanded its return in 2010 and sued in 2016, asking a court to award it US$100 million in damages too. The resulting six-inch (15 cm) tear was repaired.

A NY court ruled today (February) that the Metropolitan Museum of Art remains the legal owner of Pablo Picasso's The Actor (1904-05) and can keep the painting.

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