Enjoying ad-free content?
Since July 1, 2024, we have disabled all ads to improve your reading experience.
This commitment costs us $10,000 a month. Your support can help us fill the gap.
Support us
Our journalism is banned in Russia. We need your help to keep providing you with the truth.

New York's Met Can Keep Cezanne

NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Museum of Art can keep a famed painting by Paul Cezanne that an art collector's great-grandson had argued was improperly acquired after being confiscated by the Russian Bolshevik regime a century ago, a U.S. appeals court ruled.

The painting "Madame Cezanne in the Conservatory" or "Portrait of Madame Cezanne," was bequeathed to the Met by Stephen Clark, a collector and museum trustee who died in 1960. Clark had bought the painting in 1933.

In a 2010 lawsuit, Pierre Konowaloff, who says he is the sole heir of Ivan Morozov, a Russian whose art collection was declared state property following the 1917 revolution, sought the return of the painting.

But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, in a written ruling last week, rejected Konowaloff's claim.

The lawsuit claimed the Bolshevik seizure amounted to punishment without legal process. Konowaloff also argued that the painting's sale might have violated Russian laws prohibiting the export of artwork of historical importance.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan dismissed the lawsuit in September 2011, saying legal doctrine precludes U.S. courts from inquiring into the validity of decisions by recognized foreign sovereign governments within their own territory.

The 2nd Circuit agreed. The decision by a three-judge panel of the court found that the lawsuit on its face was barred by what is called the "act of state" doctrine.

The court also said that because Morozov did not own the painting after 1918, Konowaloff, who lives in Paris, did not have legal standing to complain about its sale or treatment after that date.

The 1891 oil painting is part of the Met's collection.

"We are gratified that the court has confirmed our faith in the ownership history of this work of art, and pleased that the Met can continue to share this beautiful picture with its millions of visitors," Harold Holzer, a museum spokesman, said in a statement.

James Tyrrell, a lawyer for Konowaloff at law firm Patton Boggs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Related articles:

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more