Profile of Claude Cassirer

In September of last year the 9th Circuit held that Claude Cassirer can pursue a case against the Kingdom of Spain over this work, Rue St.-Honoré, Après-Midi, Effet de Pluie, painted by Camille Pissarro in 1897.  In a profile of Cassirer in the L.A. Times, the 88 year-old argues the Spanish “have been most unfriendly, not cooperative in any way,” with respect to his claims for restitution.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the appeal again en banc, with an 11 judge panel, sometime in the coming months.  The work had been taken from Cassirer’s grandmother in 1939 before she fled Munich.  The Spanish government purchased the painting in 1993 as a part of the Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen Bornemisza’s collection.  The work has been valued now at $20 million. 

Spain paid the baron $50 million in 1988 to lease his collection for a decade, and halfway through bought it outright. The baron had designated Spain for his prized collection, valued at more than $2 billion, an apparently sentimental gesture honoring the last of his five wives, a former Spanish beauty queen. Thyssen-Bornemisza died in 2002.
“The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation thoroughly reviewed the complete historical record on Mr. Cassirer’s alleged claim and respectfully denied it,” said Thaddeus J. Stauber of Nixon Peabody LLP’s Los Angeles office, which represents the foundation.
Citing the statute granting foreign states immunity from U.S. lawsuits except under a few defined conditions, Stauber said “we do not think that the case properly belongs in the U.S. courts.”

  1.  Carol J. Williams, Pissarro masterpiece travels a twisted history, L.A. Times, April 7, 2010.
  2. Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, 580 F.3d 1048 (9th Cir. 2009).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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