Famous disputes

Georges Jorisch filed suit against Leonard Lauder, claiming that the former CEO of Estee Lauder was in possession of a Klimt painting.

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February 14, 2008 12:00
1 minute read.

Over the last decade, there have been a handful of high-profile cases which provide textbook examples of the complexities, emotions and uncertainty which go into making a claim for a looted piece of art. Last year, Montreal resident Georges Jorisch filed suit against cosmetics tycoon Leonard Lauder, claiming that the former CEO of Estee Lauder was in possession of a Klimt painting, Blossoming Meadow. Jorisch said that the painting, now estimated to be worth $10 million to $20 million, was looted from his Viennese grandmother, Amalie Redlich, who was deported by the Nazis to the Lodz ghetto in Poland in 1941. Jorisch's lawyer says he only discovered that Lauder was the owner thanks to an insurance application by a Canadian museum. Lauder has denied the painting ever belonged to the claimant's grandmother, saying the argument was without merit. The case is still in court. In another high-profile case which took place in 2004, the US Supreme Court allowed actress Elizabeth Taylor to keep a Vincent van Gogh painting, after rejecting an appeal by descendants of a Holocaust victim who said she was forced to sell it before fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939. Taylor's father purchased the painting - View of the Asylum and Chapel at Saint-Remy - on her behalf at a Sotheby's auction in 1963, and it is now estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars. The lawsuit filed in federal court in California by four South African and Canadian descendants of Margarete Mauthner, who fled Germany in 1939 for South Africa, claimed the Nazis forced her to sell the painting under duress and that it should be returned to her descendants under the 1998 US Holocaust Victims Redress Act. Taylor's lawyers claimed that the record showed the painting was sold through two Jewish art dealers to a Jewish art collector, and that there was no evidence of any Nazi coercion or participation in the transactions.


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