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French court to decide fate of Pissarro painting


Agence France-Presse

Paris, France  /  Thu, November 5, 2020  /  06:04 pm
French court to decide fate of Pissarro painting

Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France. (Shutterstock/EQRoy)

A French court is to decide the fate of an impressionist painting by Camille Pissarro after the daughter of a man the Nazis stole it from challenged a US-French accord.

A lawyer for Leone-Noelle Meyer, 80, said she has asked that a 2016 agreement with the Foundation of the University of Oklahoma be overturned so she can donate "La Bergère rentrant des moutons", or Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep, to the Musee D'Orsay in Paris.

The oil-on-canvas work was painted in 1886 and acquired in the 1930s by Meyer's adoptive father, Raoul Meyer, who ran the Paris department store Galeries Lafayette.

It was confiscated by Nazi forces in February 1941 and wound up in Switzerland at the end of World War II before being bought by Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer, who bequeathed it to the University of Oklahoma.

Leone-Noelle Meyer learned of its existence there almost 10 years ago, and launched proceedings to recover the painting.

An agreement was reached in February 2016 under which she became the owner, and after being displayed for five years in France, the work was to rotate for three-year periods with the university's Fred Jones Jr museum of art.

Read also: Spanish museum can keep Nazi-looted masterpiece, judge rules

But Meyer wants to give the painting to the Musee d'Orsay while she is still alive, and the museum has declined the gift because of the strings attached to it.

The painting is scheduled to return to the US on July 16, 2021.

"Mrs Meyer is fighting for the right to give this painting to the Musee d'Orsay," her lawyer Ron Soffer told AFP.

But Olivier de Baecque, who represents the US university and its museum, told AFP Wednesday that art lovers "are surprised and disappointed" by the legal action.

A joint statement by the presidents of the US university and its foundation said: "This misguided attempt to undo the US-French museum-sharing agreement should be alarming to the cultural and international community."

An initial hearing has been scheduled for December 8 in Paris to place the painting under wraps until a final ruling is reached.

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