Met Museum Sued for 'Tainted' $100M Picasso

It was sold by Jewish couple fleeing Nazis
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2016 7:58 AM CDT
This image provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows "The Actor," a painting from Picasso's rose period.   (ARS)

(Newser) – A woman who says her relatives had no choice but to sell a Picasso when fleeing the Nazis in 1938 wants New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to hand over the painting—or pay more than $100 million in damages. Laurel Zuckerman is the great-grandniece of German Jewish businessman Paul Leffmann, who sold the 1904-5 work The Actor for $13,200, the Times of Israel reports. Leffmann and his wife had fled Nazi Germany for Fascist Italy the previous year. According to a lawsuit filed in New York on Friday, they sold the Picasso they had bought in 1912 at a discount to fund their escape to Switzerland. It was donated to the Met in 1952 by Chrysler heiress Thelma Foy.

A lawyer for Zuckerman, who administers the Leffmann estate, says the painting "is tainted by the history of the Holocaust, and the Leffmanns, given the circumstances under which they sold it, never lost title," Reuters reports. The New York Times reports that the museum says it has "indisputable title" to the painting and will fight the lawsuit. The museum says the price dealers in Paris paid for the Picasso was fair market value at the time and notes that the Leffmanns, who settled in Switzerland after the war, reclaimed some of the property they had been forced to sell but did not make a claim on the painting. (A stolen $15 million Picasso was sent to the US as a $37 Christmas gift.)

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