Art Law Report

What About Margarethe Mauthner? Van Gogh Once Owned by Elizabeth Taylor Heads to Auction Again with Scant Mention of its Persecuted Former Owner

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 26, 2018 at 9:19 AM

Since the passage in 2016 of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act, many commenters (here included) have grappled with what the implications of the law will be on the scope and frequency of future claims.  Even as litigants are faced with policy arguments about whether individual claims belong in U.S. courts—arguments that the HEAR Act should have put to rest—it is occasionally worthwhile to consider how prior cases would have been affected.  Such analysis can draw into relief why the law was such a significant step forward.  This week, news that a painting by Vincent Van Gogh once owned by Elizabeth Taylor will go to auction again provides one such example.  A beautiful painting in the collection of the biggest movie star in the world makes for a great sales pitch, but missing in the coverage is any mention of Margarethe Mauthner, a German Jew who owned the painting before fleeing the Nazi regime.  The exact circumstances under which she lost possession of the painting are unclear, but those circumstances might have had the chance to be determined had the HEAR Act been passed earlier.  The importance of that opportunity is worth considering as the law is assessed going forward. 

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Topics: Margarethe Mauthner, Christie's, Sotheby's, A Tragic Fate, Nazi-looted art, Elizabeth Taylor, Van Gogh, Vue de l'asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy, HEAR Act, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, Holocaust Victims Redress Act, Paul Cassirer, Alfred Wolf

The 2nd Circuit Pulls Back on the Reach of the FSIA, Upholds Dismissal of Claim Against Switzerland for Van Gogh Drawing

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 13, 2011 at 10:37 AM

After recent expansions of the scope of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has narrowed that statute’s route of access to the courthouse again. The 2nd Circuit affirmed on November 30, 2011 the District Court’s March 11, 2011 dismissal of Andrew Orkin’s claims to recover a Vincent Van Gogh drawing against the Swiss Confederation, the Oskar Reinhart Foundation, and the Oskar Reinhart Collection.

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Topics: Andrew Orkin, Swiss Confederation, Oskar Reinhart Collection, Von Saher, Margarethe Mauthner, Germany, Oskar Reinhart Foundation, Cassirer, Vincent Van Gogh, FSIA, Restitution, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Washington Principles

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