Philippe Maestracci, the sole heir of a Jewish art dealer who owned a gallery in Paris in World War II, is suing the Helly Nahmad Gallery in New York for the return of an Amedeo Modigliani painting that belonged to his grandfather’s gallery until the Nazi invasion forced him to leave behind his art collection, according to Courthouse News Service.
Mr. Maestracci claims that his grandfather, Oscar Stettiner, had loaned the painting, Seated Man With a Cane, to the Venice Biennale in 1930. He left Paris in 1939 as the Nazi threat grew and left behind his art collection. In 1941, the Nazis appointed a temporary administrator to sell Stettiner’s property and the painting was sold in 1944 without Stettiner’s consent. The Nazis had “a practice and policy of despoiling Jewish families of property located in the occupied zones with forced sales,” Maestracci says.
Stettiner died in 1948. Seated Man With a Cane appeared in a 2008 Sotheby’s sale, consigned by the Helly Nahmad Gallery. The sale, Maestracci says, “was void since it occurred without the owner’s consent in violation of international law and New York’s law and public policy not to recognize forced sales under the Nazi regime.”