Judge Restricts Movement of Nazi-Looted Painting

The Wall Street Journal 1 June 2007

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A federal judge on Friday granted a request by the estate of a late Jewish art dealer to stop an elderly German baroness from further moving a painting that it claims was looted by the Nazis.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi also ordered Maria-Luise Bissonnette, who inherited the painting and now lives in Providence, to permit representatives from Max Stern's estate to inspect the artwork and ensure it is being stored properly and in appropriate condition.

The Canadian foundation that inherited Mr. Stern's estate filed a lawsuit in federal court in Providence last year to reclaim the 19th century painting, "Girl from the Sabiner Mountains," by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. The painting was auctioned under duress after the Nazis forced Mr. Stern to close a family gallery in 1937 under the German government's anti-Jewish laws, according to the suit.

The painting was acquired by Ms. Bissonnette's stepfather, Karl Wilharm, and was later inherited by the woman. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say Ms. Bissonnette secretly rushed the painting to Germany after learning the estate was considering a lawsuit. Ms. Bissonnette said last week that she and her family had done nothing wrong.

Judge Lisi on Friday said Ms. Bissonnette could not move the painting again without court permission. The two sides had been negotiating but have reached an impasse, Samuel Zurier, a lawyer for the estate, told the judge. Also Friday, Ms. Bissonnette's local lawyer withdrew from the case because of differences of opinion with his client.
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