The Metropolitan Museum was sued in 2011 by Laurel Zuckerman, great grand-niece of Paul Friedrich Leffmann, a German Jewish businessman. The lawsuit claims ownership over the Pablo Picasso Rose Period painting The Artist, 1904-1905. Zuckerman and her lawyers claim that The Artist was sold by the Leffmann’s under duress as they frantically sought to leave a more and more anti-Semitic Europe at the onslaught of World War II. Their research has shown that the piece was sold in 1938 for $12,000 to art dealers. The money was used to pay the couples way out of Italy, where they were living at the time having already fled Germany.
The painting was then lent to the Museum of Modern Art in 1939, and sold in 1941 to Thelma Chrysler Foy, daughter of the auto giant. She gifted the piece to the Met in 1952. In a statement, the Met has disputed the claim, saying that they have “undisputable title” and that the painting was sold at market value and not under pressure from Nazi Germany. The Met backs up this claim with the fact that the painting was out of Germany before Hitler came to power. The Met has also stated that the Leffmann’s made no claims for this painting after the war, but made claims for other property that had been sold under duress.
Throughout the lawsuit, the Met has claimed that they take issues of provenance very seriously, and have repatriated works in the past. Zuckerman and her lawyers state that the United States Government put institutions on alert for shady provenance during and after World War II, and that the Met did not take adequate care when acquiring The Artist, 1904-1905.
Smith, Jennifer. “Lawsuit Seeks Return of Picasso from Met.” The Wall Street Journal. September 30th, 2016. Accessed January 31, 2017. https://www.wsj.com/articles/lawsuit-seeks-return-of-picasso-from-met-1475277046
Times of Israel Staff. “NY Met sued for return of $100 million Picasso sold by German Jew before WWII.” The Times of Israel. September 30th, 2016. Accessed January 31, 2017. http://www.timesofisrael.com/ny-met-sued-for-return-of-picasso-piece-sold-by-german-jew-on-brink-of-wwii/