Museum Sues Over Looted Art It Returned

1945 23 August 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Mass (AP) -- A local museum has filed a $3 million suit against a New York art gallery, saying the gallery misled it about the ownership of an Italian Renaissance painting that it later had to return to Italy.

The Springfield museum purchased "Spring Sowing" by Jacopo la Ponte from M. Knoedler & Company Inc. for $5,000 in 1955. At the time, a bill of sale said the 1567 painting belonged to "a Swiss lady" whose family owned it "for a very long time."

But in 2000, the Italian government contacted the museum with records showing the painting had been stolen from the Italian embassy in Warsaw during World War II. The Springfield museum turned the painting over to the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence in 2001.

In a suit filed earlier this month, the museum charges Knoedler with fraud and deceit, The Republican of Springfield reported. The suit claims Knoedler said falsely that it had examined the painting's origins and had a clear title to it.

Museum attorney Mark D. Mason said the museum expects to recover the painting's current appraised value of $3 million.

Knoedler's lawyer, Andrius Kontrimas of Houston, could not be reached for comment Saturday. Gallery officials did not respond to requests for comment by the Republican on Friday. The gallery was closed Saturday.
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