Pierre Konowaloff is claiming to be the owner of a painting that was looted by Russia’s Bolshevik regime, unlawfully sold to an American collector, and willed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Konowaloff is the great-grandson of a Russian art collector, and the painting is “Portrait of Madame Cezanne”, made in 1891 by Cezanne. He filed suit on December 7, 2010 in the New York Southern District of Courts in order to recover the property. Further information on the suit can be found at the Courthouse News Service.
Restitution of Nazi-looted art has been making headlines for quite some time (and see a recent Cardozo Jurist article by Irina Tarsis on the topic), but “Bolshevik-looted art”?
One of Konowaloff’s lawyers, Allan Gerson, told Lee Rosenbaum at Culture Grrl that Bolshevik loot should be treated no differently than Nazi loot, because “by the 20th century we had in place international laws and conventions that prohibited the seizure of cultural property without compensation.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the suit also alleges “that the Met “almost certainly” knew that an illegal confiscation had wrested it from its original owner.” But the WSJ also points out that Konowaloff had attempt to recover another painting from a similarly well-respected institution, Yale University, and had lost.