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March 31, 2013 1:13 pm

Germans Refuse to Return Picasso Painting Sold by Jewish Man Fleeing the Nazis

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Pablo Picasso's "Madame Soler."

The German state of Bavaria is refusing to return a $100 million Picasso portrait in its possession that was originally owned by the family of composer Felix Mendelssohn.

The chef d’oeuvre, Madame Soler, had belonged to Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, from the wealthy family of Jewish financiers and a relative of the 19th-century composer Felix Mendelssohn, but he sold the painting, along with four other paintings by Picasso, in 1934 as the Nazis came to power in Germany.

His heirs are now suing, claiming that Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was forced to sell the valuable art under duress.

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The heirs to the Mendelssohn-Bartholdy estate have previously sued both the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim for two Picassos in their possession that had been owned by their ancestor. The family was awarded a $5 million settlement for their efforts.

Madame Soler was sold by the gallery owner who originally purchased the valuable pieces, Justin K. Thannhauser, to the Bavarian State Paintings Collection in 1964.

“This is a case of great historical importance involving Germany’s most famous Jewish family,” the lawyer for the family, John Byrne Jr., told the New York Post.

“We are perplexed and disappointed by Bavaria’s failure to properly address the important issues involved in this matter,” he added.

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  • This is Germany where the people voted for Auschwitz, Treblinka, etc…where families went on Jew killing picnics…This is Germany…case closed.

  • jerry hersch

    It never surprises me about Bavaria..the backbone of German anti-Semitism.
    In cultural and in historical reality an extension of Austria until German nification after the Austro-Prussian war of 1866-in which Bismarck expelled Austria from control of the Southern German Confederation.
    Always looking to Austria for “moral” and cultural leadership..a mindset far different from a reforming Germany- especially among the rural,small town and blue collar gruups and an “intellegencia” that all too often panders to them.

    • jerry hersch

      Despite a diverse immigration -and population shifts from East to West– Germany is not a monolith and the traditionally more more conservative and Catholic South (especially Bavaria) is very much more Austrian Waldheim-ish in thought

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