Taylor can keep 'looted' Van Gogh

BBC News 19 May 2007

Dame Elizabeth Taylor can keep a Van Gogh painting that may have been seized by the Nazis during World War II, a US appeals court has ruled.

The actress bought Vue de l'Asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy, estimated to be worth $10-15m (£5-8m), in 1963.

But the family of a previous owner said it had been looted and wanted it back.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a decision made by a lower court in 2005 that the heirs waited too long to take action.

"This affirms my great belief in the American judicial process. I am very grateful," Dame Elizabeth, 75, said in a statement.

"It's wonderful to have Monsieur Vincent Van Gogh in my living room."

The star paid £92,000 for the artwork at Sotheby's in London 44 years ago.

It had previously been owned by the late Margarete Mauthner, a Jewish woman whose possessions were seized by the Nazis after she fled Germany in 1939.

Her descendents sued Dame Elizabeth in 2004, saying she failed to review the ownership history and that the 1963 auction brochure said it was likely to have been looted by the Nazis.

'No proof'

But the appeals court upheld the decision that the three-year window for taking action under state law had expired.

It also agreed that the Holocaust Victims Redress Act did not establish a right to sue for the return of confiscated property.

Dame Elizabeth and her lawyers said there was no proof the Nazis forced Ms Mauthner to give up the 1889 painting.

Her defence said it had passed through two Jewish art dealers without any sign of Nazi coercion and there was evidence that it was sold in the late 1920s.
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