The Nazis, the Jewish banker, and the battle for two priceless Picassos





The paintings are not only priceless, but they have been among the star attractions at New York's Museum of Modern Art and the city's equally renowned Guggenheim Museum for more than four decades. Both are early Picassos painted at the beginning of the 20th century – before the two world wars that would engulf Europe and ultimately lead to the current blockbuster of a legal battle.

One of the canvases is Le Moulin de la Galette, a Picasso painted in 1900 that, unlike the artist's later works, appears to ape the French Impressionists with its colourful depiction of dancing couples in fin de siècle top hats and flowing dresses at a lamp-lit venue somewhere in or near Paris. The other is Boy Leading A Horse, painted just six years later. This work, sparsely executed in tones of black, grey and brown, already betrays the radically different sculptured style that was later to become Picasso's hallmark.

Before Adolf Hitler was swept to power in Germany, the two Picassos belonged to one of the leading figures in a German Jewish community that had once played a key role in giving both the country and its capital, Berlin, a reputation as a centre of intellectual excellence.

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