Marei Von Saher, the daughter-in-law of the Jewish dealer who fled Nazi-occupied The Netherlands in 1940, has been seeking the return of the works from the Norton Simon Museum in California for over a decade. On August 15, a US District Court judge dismissed her case and ruled that the museum was the sole owner of the pictures.
Adam and Eve, which date from c.1530, were among the pictures owned by Goudstikker that were expropriated by the Nazis and became part of Hermann Göring’s infamous art collection. They were later returned to the Dutch government in 1946 which later sold them in 1966 to George Stroganoff, a former Russian naval officer who claimed to have had the paintings stolen from him by the Soviets before Goudstikker had acquired them.
Stroganoff sold the Cranachs to the collector Norton Simon in 1971 for $800,000.
In the latest chapter of a long-running litigation, the judge ruled that, since the Goudstikker firm had not failed filed a claim before 1951, the Cranachs became the property of the Dutch state and they had the right to do with them what they wanted.
Art law commentator and partner at law firm Sullivan & Worcester Nicholas O'Donnell wrote in an Art Law Report post that the ruling was “a bitter blow for the claimants who laboured for years to recover the paintings and for whom it appeared their day in court had arrived”.
“This is all the more so because there was no dispute in the briefing that the paintings had been expropriated by Hermann Göring’s rapacious henchman,” he added.
O'Donnell concludes that the case will now likely head to the Ninth Circuit for the third time with the legal dispute now entering its second decade.