An elderly Holocaust survivor from San Diego can continue his legal battle against a Spanish museum to reclaim a valuable painting he says was taken from his grandmother by the Nazis, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 88-year-old Claude Cassirer's case against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid and the Spanish government can go forward.
Painting traded for visa
Cassirer claimed his grandmother was forced to sell the 1897 painting by French impressionist Camille Pissarro for what was then $360 to get a visa to escape from Nazi Germany in 1939. He filed suit in California's Central District in Los Angeles in 2005, and the defendants appealed in June 2006.
The painting, Rue St.-Honore, Apres-Midi, Effet de Pluie, depicts a Parisian boulevard lined with dark carriages, a few bare trees and a scattering of people braving the weather. Its value is estimated at $20 million.
The painting apparently changed hands several times after World War II, and its whereabouts were a mystery to the Cassirer family until a friend spotted it in the Madrid museum in 2000.
The Spanish government bought the painting as part of the Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza's collection, which was worth $327 million. It has been on display at the famous government-owned museum since 1993.
Baron Thyssen bought the painting from a New York art dealer in 1976. Cassirer tried to negotiate its return through Spain's Ministry of Culture, but his request was denied.