The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued its decision in the case determining ownership of Oskar Kokoschka’s painting Two Nudes (Lovers) (painted about 1913). The decision affirmed United States District Judge Rya Zobel’s May 28, 2009, ruling that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) is the rightful owner of the painting, and any claim to Two Nudes (Lovers) is time-barred.
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In May 28, 2009 Memorandum of Decision and Order in Museum of Fine Arts, Boston v. Seger-Thomschitz, No. 08-10097-RWZ (D. Mass.), Judge Zobel ruled in favor of the Museum, holding that no claim to the painting could be made by Dr. Seger-Thomschitz. The Judge held that because Oskar Reichel’s family could have sought restitution of the painting decades ago (had they believed there was any reason to challenge the 1939 transaction), the applicable statute of limitations barred any claim now. Judge Zobel also held that Dr. Seger-Thomschitz herself waited too long to bring a claim after learning she might have rights to property previously owned by Oskar Reichel. Judge Zobel stated in her ruling that:
• “[A]lthough the Reichel family never claimed compensation for any of the Kokoschka works that had been transferred to Kallir for sale, it did claim restitution for artwork and property that had been stolen by the Nazis.”
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Following this March 2007 claim, the MFA thoroughly reviewed the claim to Two Nudes (Lovers) in accordance with its own Acquisitions Policy as well as the guidelines set forth by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), and the Washington Principles of 1998 on Nazi-Confiscated Art. The Museum is committed to determining, on an ongoing basis, whether any work of art in its collection has ever been stolen, confiscated, looted, or otherwise unlawfully appropriated as a result of Nazi persecution without subsequent restitution. A leader in provenance research, the MFA makes ownership information available to the public through its website, mfa.org. During the past decade, the Museum has restituted a number of works of art to their rightful owners based on provenance research.
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