The descendants of a German Jewish banker who contend that he was compelled to unload his artwork assortment within the mid-Thirties to keep away from being harassed by Nazis are suing a Japanese insurance coverage firm that owns a van Gogh he offloaded because the Third Reich ascended to energy. Julius H. Schoeps, Britt-Marie Enhoerning, and Florence Von Kesselstatt, the authorized heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, on December 13 filed go well with in an Illinois district court docket towards Sompo Holdings, searching for the return of Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 Sunflowers or $750 million in punitive damages.
Following the 1934 sale of the portray by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the work was acquired by Yasuda Hearth & Marine, as Sompo was then identified, in 1987 for $39.9 million, inclusive of charges—at the moment, the best quantity paid for an paintings at public sale. Shortly thereafter, the portray went on show on the Sompo Museum of Artwork, the place it has since remained. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s heirs, who variously reside in Berlin and New York, keep that the banker “by no means meant to switch any of his work and that he was compelled to switch them solely due to threats and financial pressures by the Nazi authorities,” which on the time was “focusing on and dispossessing” Jewish businesspeople in Germany. Although they agree that Sompo didn’t “purposefully” capitalize on the circumstances surrounding the portray’s authentic sale—which befell 9 years earlier than the approaching into pressure of the 1998 Washington Ideas on Nazi-Confiscated Artwork governing public sale homes—they contend that the insurer was conscious that it was a “casualty of Nazi insurance policies” once they purchased it.
Talking with Courthouse News, Sompo spokesperson Sho Tanka refuted the accusations specified by the ninety-eight-page criticism, noting that “Sompo categorically rejects any allegation of wrongdoing and intends to vigorously defend its possession rights in Sunflowers.”
The go well with arrived simply days earlier than descendants of Hedwig Stern filed suit in a San Francisco court docket alleging that the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York was equally conscious of the contaminated provenance of an unnamed van Gogh portray that the establishment bought from Vincent Astor in 1956 and offered to Greek transport tycoon Basil Goulandris in 1972. The heirs contend that the work was stolen from their Jewish ancestor by the Nazis after she fled Munich and the grip of the Third Reich.