Frenchman to Met: Gimme Back My Cezanne

He claims Bolsheviks stole it from his family in 1918
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2010 11:38 AM CST
A Paul Cezanne painting is shown November 6, 2003 in Nanterre outside of Paris, France.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A Cezanne masterpiece on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art actually belongs to a Frenchman's family, he alleges in a lawsuit. Pierre Konowaloff claims the Bolsheviks looted his grandfather's art collection after the Russian Revolution in 1918, and that "Madame Cezanne in the Conservatory," worth between $50 million and $70 million, is one of the hundreds of works they stole.

An American collector purchased the painting in 1933 through a Russian laundering operation, the lawsuit claims, and after that collector's death in 1960 it was gifted to the Met. Though museums are prohibited from taking art that was stolen by the Nazis, "there haven't been similar cases regarding Bolshevik looted art," Konowaloff’s lawyer tells the New York Post. Konowaloff says he will display the painting if he recovers it, but the Met calls his suit "without merit."

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