FBI seize Picasso looted by Nazis in France

27th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

LOS ANGELES, Oct 26 (AFP) - US authorities have seized a long-lost painting by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso worth about USD 10 million that was looted by Nazis during World War Two, the FBI said Tuesday.

LOS ANGELES, Oct 26 (AFP) - US authorities have seized a long-lost painting by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso worth about USD 10 million that was looted by Nazis during World War Two, the FBI said Tuesday.

Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Marshals from Los Angeles seized the painting, called "Femme en Blanc" from the home of its owner in Chicago on October 21 following a complaint that it was stolen property.

The painting, also known as "Femme Assise" or "Seated Woman," was "arrested" on the grounds that it was stolen property that had been illegally shipped from one US state to another by a Chicago resident, prosecutors said.

The work was painted by Picasso around 1922 and sold to a German Jew, Carlota Landsberg, in 1926 or 1927, who sent it to a Paris dealer for safekeeping during World War Two.

But in 1940, at the start of the German occupation of France, the painting was allegedly looted from the art dealer and not seen publicly again until late 2001, when it appeared at a Los Angeles exhibition, court documents state.

A complaint filed in US federal court in Los Angeles alleges that tracking by the London based Art Loss Register revealed that the painting was sold to a Paris art dealer by a collector who was investigated for benefiting from sales to the Nazis.

In 1975, the art dealer sold the painting to a Paris art gallery that in turn sold it to American buyers Marilynn Alsdorf and her late husband James, who lives in Chicago and who has owned it ever since.

After the painting was exhibited in Los Angeles, the gallery that showed the work sent it to Switzerland in an attempt to sell it on behalf of Marilynn Alsdorf, the complaint said.

But a routine investigation into its origins revealed it had been stolen by the Nazis, and Alsdorf and the San Francisco area-based grandson of the painting's first owner, Landsberg, were informed of its history.

Landsberg's grandson Thomas Bennigson then sued Alsdorf in late 2002 to recover the painting for his family, but Alsdorf allegedly arranged for the work to be transported from Los Angeles back to her Chicago home.

"The painting was, therefore, then subject to forfeiture to the United States as property traceable to unlawful activity in that it was transported in interstate commerce with knowledge that it was stolen," the FBI said in a statement.

But Alsdorf's lawyer Roscoe Howard noted that his client had filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago over the painting's ownership and vowed that Alsdorf would "clearly respond to anything filed in Los Angeles."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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