Ruling on Nazi art





A federal judge has ruled that a painting held by a German baroness belongs to the estate of a Jewish art dealer who was forced by the Nazis to auction it, The Associated Press reported. Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi of United States District Court for Rhode Island on Thursday ordered Maria-Luise Bissonnette to turn over “Girl From the Sabiner Mountains," above, to representatives of the estate of Max Stern, who died in 1987, stating that his “relinquishment of his property” was clearly “anything but voluntary." Both sides say that the painting, which has not been authenticated, is by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, a 19th-century artist famous for his portraits of European nobility. One appraiser for Ms. Bissonnette estimated its value at up to $94,000. Mr. Stern inherited his family’s art gallery in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1934, but three years later the Nazis forced him to auction its contents because he was Jewish. He later fled to Canada, where he became a prominent art dealer and worked to reclaim his lost paintings. Ms. Bissonnette’s stepfather, Karl Wilharm, a member of the Nazi Party, purchased the painting at the auction; Ms. Bissonnette, who resettled in Rhode Island, inherited it. Mr. Stern left his estate to the McGill and Concordia Universities in Montreal and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which have continued his work in trying to find his paintings, hundreds of which are still missing. Ms. Bissonnette has said that she and her family did nothing wrong. “I have the receipt,” she said earlier. “My father paid for it."


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