Los Angeles. In a precedent-setting decision, a U.S. federal court has ruled that a Camille Pissarro masterpiece painting is rightfully owned by Nixon Peabody’s Spanish client, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation in Madrid.
“We are pleased that after a full trial on the merits the Foundation’s ownership has been confirmed,” said Nixon Peabody attorney Thaddeus J. Stauber, trial attorney for the Foundation.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter wrote in his written decision that the Foundation is the owner of the painting, having acquired it (and hundreds of other artworks) lawfully decades ago and for a fair and reasonable price from Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. The American heirs of the original owner, Lily Cassirer Neubauer, had alleged, without any evidence, that the Foundation and its prior owners knew that the painting had been stolen during World War II. But, after examining the evidence presented at trial, Judge Walter ruled that there was no evidence to support such claims. The decision is consistent with the court’s prior, pre-trial decisions which recognized that, based on applicable U.S. and Spanish law, the Foundation is the proper owner.
“The historical evidence confirmed that in 1958, Lily Cassirer Neubauer was compensated by the German government for her loss in the form of a monetary payment equal to the painting’s then-current fair market value and thereafter, the family did not pursue the claim until 2000-2001,” Mr. Stauber said. “As with the post-World War II owners who proceeded the Foundation, no one knew or had reason to suspect the Cassirer family’s history with the painting. The trial established unequivocally that the Foundation lawfully and publically acquired the painting, along with the Baron’s complete art collection, at a fair and reasonable price after conducting the proper due diligence and for the purpose of sharing the art collection with the public.”
The case is Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, 05-CV-03459-JFW (Ex), U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
The Nixon Peabody team consists of Thaddeus J. Stauber, partner and head of the firm’s Arts & Cultural Institutions team, partner Sarah Erickson André, counsel Aaron Brian and associate Irene Scholl-Tatevosyan.