Court lets California museum keep Nazi-looted art
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Court lets California museum keep Nazi-looted art

US appeals court rules that seized masterpieces need not be given to relatives of original Jewish owners

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, January 21, 2015. (AP Photo/John Antczak,)
The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, January 21, 2015. (AP Photo/John Antczak,)

LOS ANGELES — An appeals court has upheld a judge’s ruling that a California museum can keep two German Renaissance masterpieces that were seized by the Nazis in World War II.

US District Court Judge John Walter ruled in 2016 that Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum is the rightful owner of “Adam” and “Eve.”

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday agreed.

The two oil-on-panel paintings dating from 1530 have been at the museum for decades.

Marei von Saher alleged that the works were seized from her father-in-law, a Jewish art dealer, after he fled Holland during the Holocaust.

The Norton Simon says it legally acquired the works in the 1970s from the descendant of Russian aristocrats who had them wrongly taken by the Soviet Union in the 1920s.

Lucas Cranach the Elder painted the works in around 1530. In 1971, they were acquired by the museum for $800,000, the equivalent of about $4.8 million today. They were appraised at $24 million in 2006.

Depicting mankind in the ominous moment before the biblical Fall, the painting’s ownership battle, too, points to a period in human history fraught with uncertainty: a 20th-century Europe ravaged by war.

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