Legal win for California family seeking to recover Pissarro painting


A Jewish family from San Diego that has been seeking to recover a painting by Camille Pissarro that a relative sold during the Holocaust has received a legal victory from a panel of judges who ruled this week that the family can pursue the case, reversing an earlier court decision that had favored the painting’s present owner.

The Cassirer family has spent years trying to recover an 1897 Pissarro painting titled “Rue Saint-Honoré, après-midi, effet de pluie.” Family members have argued that a relative, Lilly Cassirer, was pressured to sell the painting when the family was fleeing Nazi Germany.

In court papers, they say that a Nazi appraiser demanded that the painting be sold for $390 in 1939 exchange rates.


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The painting now resides at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Spain. Claude Cassirer, Lilly’s sole heir, was based in La Mesa, near San Diego. In 2005, he filed a lawsuit against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation Collection and the kingdom of Spain to recover the art work.

After Claude Cassirer died, two family members -- David and Ava Cassirer -- took over as plaintiffs along with the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County.

A federal court in Southern California ruled in favor of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation Collection on the grounds that a six-year statute of limitation rule for recovering stolen art put in place by California in 2011 constituted an intrusion on foreign affairs, and that a three-year statute of limitation was applicable.

But this week, a panel of three judges from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, sending the case back to a lower court.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation Collection has argued that the family already accepted a $13,000 settlement in Germany in the 1950s.



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