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Disputed art

Jewish family demands Picasso painting compensation

Lawyers acting on behalf of a Jewish family have launched a legal petition surrounding a Picasso painting that they claim was sold under duress from Nazi threat just before the Second World War.

A German-Jewish businessman, Paul Leffmann, was forced to sell the artwork “The Actor” at a cut price in order to finance his escape from Italy to Zurich in 1938, according to legal documents filed in New York on Friday.

The painting ended up in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which the petitioners claim failed to adequately check its providence. Lawyers of the family are claiming $100 million (CHF97 million) in damages based on estimations of the oil painting’s current market value.

The lawsuit was filed following a decade of negotiations between the family and the Met. The museum denies the charges that it did not follow correct protocol when accepting the artwork. “The Artist” was painted by Picasso in 1904-5 and depicts a standing figure gesturing with his hand.

Europe is no stranger to legal challenges involving artworks stolen by the Nazis or sold under duress by persecuted owners, but such lawsuits are relatively uncommon in the United States.

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