WASHINGTON D.C., May 26, 2004 – LAWFUEL – The claimants of the Holocaust-era
painting by Vincent van Gogh that is now in the possession of Elizabeth Taylor
of California reacted today to Ms. Taylor’s filing of a lawsuit in a
California court, seeking a declaratory judgment that she is the rightful
owner of the painting.
“The complaint appears to be entirely non-meritorious,” said attorney
Thomas J. Hamilton, of the Washington, DC law firm of Byrne Goldenberg &
Hamilton, PLLC. “It misapprehends the law that applies in stolen art recovery
cases generally and to Holocaust-era art claims in particular. The complaint
also evinces no understanding of Nazi policy to German Jews during the 1930s.
It is now widely acknowledged and accepted in the art world and by recent
federal legislation that German Jews sold paintings and other property during
the Hitler era under circumstances that amounted to a National policy of
“The preeminent artworld authority on van Gogh, Dr. J. Baart de la
Faille, confirmed in his catalogues raisonnes of both 1928 and 1939 that
Margarete Mauthner was the owner of the van Gogh painting during the 1930s,
and a third catalogue raisonne issued in 1970 corroborated this conclusion,”
said attorney John J. Byrne, Jr., also with the law firm of Byrne Goldenberg &
Hamilton, PLLC. “A catalogue raisonne is a definitive listing of an artist’s
work prepared by a leading scholar. U.S. courts consistently have invoked
catalogues raisonnes to decide ownership disputes to paintings such as our
client’s claim against Ms. Taylor.”
“We have never claimed that Nazis directly took the painting off Mrs.
Mauthner’s wall. But we do not need to make any such showing in order to
recover the painting under the 1998 federal Holocaust Victims Redress Act. The
Redress Act as well as U.S. policy and law immediately after World War II have
been consistent and clear: European Jews sold property during the Holocaust
era under acute political pressure and economic duress and it must be returned
to them regardless of whether the buyers were Jews or not, or whether or not
the buyers were familiar galleries or dealers,” said Mr. Hamilton.
“The ownership claim of Ms. Mauthner was registered in both the 1928 and
1939 catalogues raisonnes,” Mr. Hamilton added.