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Lloyd Webber’s Picasso Withdrawn; Foundation’s Lawyer Says Plaintiffs Sought Cash Settlement

Christie’s is doing the prudent, if painful, thing—withdrawing Picasso’s “Angel Fernández de Soto” from tonight’s auction. Because of the threat of continued legal wrangling over the painting’s Nazi-era past, there is a “cloud over title that makes it difficult to sell the painting,” conceded Carey Ramos, attorney for Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s foundation, which owns it.
Both the foundation and Christie’s maintain that the lawsuit’s claims about the painting’s alleged forced sale during the Nazi era “have no merit.” In addition, Ramos revealed to me in a phone conversation this afternoon that the attorneys for the claimant, Julius Schoeps, had sought to reach a monetary settlement of the case with Lloyd Webber’s foundation. The foundation “flatly refused” to enter into such discussions, Ramos said.
In its press release announcing the withdrawal, Christie’s president, Marc Porter said: “We reserve the right to seek damages.”
Schoeps’ attorneys are expected to file suit over the painting’s ownership in New York County Supreme Court, according to Ramos. Because their lawsuit was dismissed yesterday in U.S. District Court merely on jurisdictional grounds, not on the merits of the case, Schoeps can still press his arguments in state court.
Schoeps says that he is an heir to the Berlin banker, Paul
von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
, who had owned the painting in the 1930s. As reported today by Mark Hamblett in the New York Law Journal:
Schoeps claimed that the Nazis were closing in on his wealthy ancestor in 1934 and the banker was forced to sell the painting or will it to his wife, Elsa, who was then forced to sell it into a depressed art market. Mr. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy died in 1935.
Attempts by CultureGrrl to reach Schoeps’ New York and Washington attorneys this afternoon were unsuccessful.

an ArtsJournal blog