- Adam and Eve
The LA Times’s Mike Boehm reports on the Federal Appeals Court decision yesterday questioning the validity of a California law that gives Nazi-looted art restitution claims until 2010 to be filed. The case involves Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve, valued for insurance at $24 million and owned now by the Norton Simon Museum.
The ruling only questions the California law, it doesn’t resolve the claim because a lower court needs to reconsider whether the woman claiming ownership has a right to sue under the regular statute of limitations.
Although the Norton Simon Art Foundation bought the Cranach panels from a Russian owner in 1971, the appellate court said the statute of limitations clock would not have begun to run on Von Saher until “she discovered or reasonably could have discovered” that she had an ownership claim to the Cranachs,” and that they were hanging at the Norton Simon Museum. “It is not clear that the statute of limitations has expired,” they said — and that’s now an issue for the two sides to argue . . . “
Perhaps more interesting than the legal details of the statute of limitations is the multi-layered restitution claims surrounding these paintings. Boehm explains how Marei von Saher came to feel she had a claim:
Von Saher’s father-in-law, Jacques Goudstikker, bought the life-size nudes of Adam and Eve in 1931 when they were put up for auction in Berlin by Josef Stalin’s financially hard-pressed Soviet regime. When Goudstikker fled Holland, his firm sold the paintings to the Nazis under duress.
After World War II, Goudstikker’s family reached a settlement with the Dutch government that left the Cranachs in Dutch hands. The Dutch government then transferred ownership to George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, an heir to an old Russian family, who said the Bolsheviks had confiscated the paintings from his forebears during the Russian Revolution. Stroganoff-Scherbatoff subsequently sold them to Norton Simon, the Los Angeles industrialist who established the Norton Simon Museum.