A Jewish family can now pursue legal recourse for an esteemed painting seized by Nazis in World War II, thanks to a recent ruling from a US court.
The San Francisco appeals court decision this week made history by reinstating a law that allows individuals to file suits to reclaim art that has been lost as long as a century ago. A statute of limitations previously made such pursuits impossible.
Now, the heirs of Julius Cassirer, a German businessman and art collector, are moving forward with plans to recover an 1897 painting by Camille Pissarro.
Cassirer bought the work, “Rue St.-Honore, Apres-Midi, Effet de Pluie,” in 1898. The businessman’s son and daughter-in-law, Fritz and Lily, inherited the piece, but turned it over to Nazi officials during the war in exchange for visas to flee the country.
In the 1950’s, Lily was compensated by the German government with $13,000, a sum that does not come close to the painting’s actual worth—its estimated value is $20 million.
The painting now hangs in a palace museum after ending up in the collection of Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. Cassirer’s grandson Claude filed a suit in 2000 against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation, asking for the return of the piece.
Claude Cassirer has since died, but his grandchildren David and Ava Cassirer have kept up the cause, leading to Monday’s ruling in California, which should make it easier for the family to continue pursuing legal recourse in Germany.