One of Camille Pissarro’s last paintings was meant to be auctioned last night at Christie’s in London but was withdrawn just before the sale. The picture was the subject of a seven-decade search by one of the heirs to the Fischer publishing family who tracked the painting to a Swiss bank vault. If that were not enough of a saga, things got interesting after the painting was consigned to Christie’s, according to the Telegraph:
But at the last minute, she was met with opposition from a New Yorker named Itai Shoffman, 38, the great grandson of Samuel Fischer and the grandson his younger daughter, Hildegard. According to Shoffman, the nephew of Gisela Bermann-Fischer, Hildegard was the “black sheep of the family”, having had a daughter, his mother, out of wedlock.
“On the see-saw of life this side of the family has been more on the down side than the up,” Mr Shoffman said.
But a lawyer in Berlin specialising in inheritance cases has unearthed a letter written in 1946 that indicates that Samuel’s wife Hedwig wanted the now dead Hildegard to inherit the Pissarro if it was ever found.
According to Mr Shoffman, Ms Bermann-Fischer knew his side of the family well but had deliberately sought to exclude them from the Pissarro issue. “It feels like such a deceitful act. She’s taking away the last remaining legacy of the family and holding it for her own benefit,” he said.
His lawyers had sought a 50-50 split of the proceeds of the Pissarro sale but up until the deadline for the Christie’s auction, Ms Bermann-Fischer’s lawyers had only offered 20 per cent.
“It made a mockery of the whole journey,” he said. “I’m disappointed but in God’s hands it will work out. It’s been a rocky road and there has been so much pain.”