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Showing posts from April 29, 2018

The BUSKLAW May Newsletter: Void for Duress? The Case of the Picasso Sold for Peanuts Under Nazi Oppression

Picasso's famous (and now priceless) 1905 painting, "The Actor," hangs in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art but not without some controversy. The estate of the painting's original owners, Paul and Alice Leffmann, sued the Museum in N.Y. Federal Court to get it back, along with $100 million in damages. The basis for the suit: the Leffmanns were German Jews, living under Nazi oppression, who were desperate to obtain the funds to flee to Switzerland (and later to Brazil). So in 1938, they were "forced" to sell the painting for a fraction of its value. The Museum defended the suit by arguing that there was no duress under either New York or Italian law. Judge Loretta Preska weighed the facts, sorted out all of the arguments, and issued her decision on 7 February 2018

There is no dispute that the Leffmanns, living in Italy at the time, were under imminent threat of deportation and death at the hands of German Nazis, who were becoming cozy with Mussolini…