The story of Oscar Stettiner’s Modigliani has been around for some time, including the Nahmad family’s use of an arm’s length entity to assert that they are not in possession of the work. Why the Wall Street Journal is running their story now isn’t readily apparent. But the paper does provide this interesting reminder of the problems with restitution cases. The Journal provides a look at the provenance and how a good faith buyer can end up in a spot:
That painting turned up in a 1996 Christie’s auction in London, where it was purchased for $3.2 million by the International Art Center, according to court records filed by the defendants. The seller wasn’t identified. The provenance published in the Christie’s catalog noted that the painting was sold in an anonymous sale in Paris between 1940 and 1945. Christie’s didn’t respond to a request for comment.
At that time of the sale, the painting hadn’t been flagged as potential Nazi-looted artwork.
“Seated Man With a Cane” was put up for auction again in 2008 at Sotheby’s, where it was valued at between $18 million and $25 million, but didn’t sell. This time, the provenance noted Mr. Stettiner as a possible prior owner. Sotheby’s declined to comment.