Los Angeles, CA. After a seven year legal dispute, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has confirmed that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation of Madrid, Spain is the rightful owner of the oil painting by Camille Pissarro, Rue Saint-Honore, après-midi, effet de pluie (1897). The Court ruled in favor of the Foundation in Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemizsa Collection Foundation, dismissing the complaint with prejudice and without leave to amend. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation is represented by Thaddeus J. Stauber and Sarah E. André of Nixon Peabody LLP in Los Angeles, CA and Pedro Alemán Laín and Javier Martínez Bavière of Pedro Alemán Abogados in Madrid, Spain.
The Pissarro painting was acquired by Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in good faith in 1976, and later by the Foundation in 1993 when the Baron’s collection came to Spain. The Foundation’s collection has an extensive worldwide public exhibition and publication history and has often been exhibited in museums in Australia, Japan, England, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, the United States, and Spain. The painting (and its provenance) has been regularly published in exhibition catalogues and scholarly studies of Pissarro and of Impressionist art. It has been on continuous public display for years in Madrid at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza where it can be seen today.
In 2000, the now deceased Mr. Claude Cassirer petitioned the Foundation for the Pissarro painting. The Foundation reviewed the complete historical record regarding Mr. Cassirer’s claim and respectfully denied it. In commissioning an independent international provenance investigation into the painting’s and Cassirer Family history, the Foundation learned and shared with Mr. Cassirer that his grandmother had completely and fully resolved any claims the Cassirer Family had to the Pissarro painting in 1958. Pursuant to the 1958 Settlement Agreement, any restitution claims were released and all competing claims ended. The historical record also documented that Mr. Cassirer himself had received the 1958 Settlement Agreement payments. With the historical record clarified and the Baron’s 1976 and Foundation’s 1993 acquisitions having been conducted properly and publicly in good faith, the Foundation respectfully denied the modern day claim.
Unfortunately, in 2005 the plaintiff chose to file legal action against the Foundation in the California federal district courts seeking to take advantage of a unique California statute that attempted to revive old World War II related restitution claims. After lengthy appeal proceedings to determine if the U.S. courts could hear the case, it was decided the case could be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. Back before District Court Judge Feess, the Foundation and its Nixon Peabody legal counsel presented the court with its historical findings and requested that the claim be dismissed as the legal avenues the Plaintiff was seeking to use to revive the claim were without merit and unconstitutional.
On May 25, 2012, the district court agreed with the Foundation and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim with prejudice and without leave to amend. In doing so, the district court issued a forty-eight page decision, finding that California’s WWII claim revival statute is preempted by the federal government’s foreign power. In making its decision, the court referenced the 1958 Settlement Agreement with the German government that fully and completely resolved the plaintiff’s claim to the painting.