Friday, November 14, 2014
The Norton Simon Museum is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review what its attorneys call a "profoundly misguided decision" by a federal appeals court that has kept alive a lawsuit aimed at wresting away ownership of two of the Pasadena museum's most prized holdings: paired depictions of Adam and Eve by the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder.
The nearly 500-year-old paintings are believed to have been stolen by the Nazis in 1940 from Jacques Goudstikker, a Dutch-Jewish art dealer. His daughter-in-law, Marei Von Saher, sued the museum for their return, in a case that has lasted more than seven years. In June, in a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals resurrected Von Saher's case against the museum after it had been dismissed by a federal judge in Los Angeles.
The petition the museum sent this week to the Supreme Court urges it to take up the case because, it contends, the 9th Circuit ruling conflicts with legal principles already upheld by the Supreme Court, and could open the door for other cases that would improperly try to second-guess U.S. foreign policy outcomes.
[...] The foreign policy question at issue in Von Saher vs. Norton Simon stems from the post-World War II U.S. policy known as "external restitution," in which Nazi-looted artworks recovered by American forces were sent back to the countries where they had been stolen. It was left to the postwar governments of the formerly Nazi-controlled nations to invite claims to looted art and judge whether they were valid. The argument is now over whether the Dutch government's handling of the Goudstikker family's claim to "Adam" and "Eve" satisfied the requirements of the external restitution policy.