Monday, 12 May 2014

Raphaël Meyer and a remarkable Mother's Day moment

It’s not every Mother’s Day a son stands before a painting he and his mother want returned to their family, a painting stolen by the Nazis from their family in 1941, its location unknown for 60 years.

But that’s what Raphaël Meyer did yesterday. The French native, now living in New York State, stood next to Camille Pissarro’s ‘La Bergère,’ (The Shepherdess) and spoke about what the painting means not just to his family and its history—his mother’s family all perished at Auschwitz—but to the greater issue of restitution of artwork looted in time of war.

Léone Meyer, adopted by Raoul Meyer and his wife following the murder of her family at Auschwitz, was unable to travel because of ill health, but she could not have asked for a more moving Mother’s Day gift.

The painting was previously the focus of litigation in Switzerland after Raoul Meyer discovered the painting was in possession of a Swiss art dealer.

The Swiss court held that Raoul Meyer could not prove the art dealer had bought the painting “in bad faith” so the painting was not returned. After the Swiss ruling, the painting’s whereabouts remained unknown to the Meyer family until a member of the family discovered a reference to the painting in a blog post discussing records of the Nazi special task force, the ERR, which was dedicated to systematically looting the art of Europe.

Mr. Meyer, family attorney Pierre Ciric of New York City, and Marc Masurovsky, a looted art specialist and audit team leader on President Clinton’s commission on Holocaust-era assets in the US, are all testifying before an Oklahoma legislature committee today. This is the second haring the committee has held while investigating the Fred Jones Museum’s possession of La Bergère.