The trial lasted for three years. This story began in the spring of 2017. Then, the heirs of the French collector Simon Bauer saw the painting at the Marmotan-Monet Museum in Paris and recognized a picture from the collection of their ancestor. It was plundered by the Nazis in 1943.
Then an attempt to return the picture ran into the resistance of its owners. An American couple of collectors Bruce and Robbie Toll bought the picture in 1995 at the Christie’s auction for $ 800 thousand. The couple claimed that they were bona fide purchasers of the work, legally registered ownership of it, and the picture got to France in an exhibition after passing all formal checks.
Nevertheless, over the past three years, courts of various instances have come to a decision over and over again that the work should be returned to the heirs of the original owner. But each decision was followed by an appeal. And on July 1, 2020, a point was set in this matter.
The decision of the Supreme Court is considered final and not appealable, but the Toll family`s lawyers plan to appeal the verdict to the European Court of Human Rights. According to the lawyer of American collectors Ron Soffer, his clients are “dissatisfied, because ultimately it is they who have to pay for the crime committed by the Vichy regime.”
In addition, he noted that such a judicial precedent “opens a real Pandora’s box” and may serve as a reason for reviewing many transactions with art made in the post-war period. In turn, a representative of the Bauer family said that the court’s decision “provides an undeniable legal basis for all ongoing actions aimed at returning to the rightful owners of works of art plundered and illegally held by collectors who are trying to appeal to the fairness of their acquisition.”
The heirs of Simon Bauer (currently there are about 20 of them) are preparing for a meeting with the work of Pissarro, who has been in storage at the Orsay Museum for the last three years.