The New York Times has a long story on the Wildenstein case that takes quite a while to get to anything good. But near the end, we learn about the real stakes in this battle beyond the grave between Daniel Wildenstein’s widow and his son, Guy.
The issue is that Wildenstein has acted as more than an art dealer for many clients. They stored art in the Wildenstein vaults and trusted to Guy to administer their affairs. Except the recent discovery of works at Wildenstein has encouraged others to pursue their own claims:
Yves Rouart, nephew and heir of the art collector Anne-Marie Rouart, has been battling the Wildensteins in the French courts for years for the return of artworks from her collection after Mrs. Rouart’s death in 1993. She donated part of her collection and property to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, on the advice of Daniel Wildenstein. But she left her luxury apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine, with its furnishings, to Mr. Rouart. His legal pursuit began when he claimed to have discovered that as many as 40 paintings — including works by Degas, Manet and the Morisot painting of the Normandy cottage — were removed from the walls during the settlement of her estate. Guy Wildenstein was one of the two executors. Twenty-four of those artworks, a Corot among them, turned up in Switzerland in 1997 in a Swiss safe rented by François Daulte, an Impressionist expert and the father of Olivier Daulte, another co-executor.
In the January raid on the Wildenstein Institute, another missing Morisot painting was turned up by police, who alerted Mr. Rouart. He has filed a new criminal complaint — under the French legal system it is filed against “X”’ — while an inquiry determines how the painting came to be at the Wildenstein Institute. The Académie des Beaux-Arts filed a similar complaint involving the Morisot cottage painting in which it also claims an interest because of Mrs. Rouart’s donation.
“That particular painting has been in my family’s possession since its creation,” Mr. Rouart said. “My great-grandmother, my grandmother and father would never accept that this work would remain in the possession of a merchant who has no right to it.”
Venerable Art Dealer is Beset by Lawsuits (New York Times)