Judge throws out lawsuit against Elizabeth Taylor over Van Gogh

AFP 8 February 2005

Los Angeles (AFP) -- A US federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the decendants of a Holocaust victim who claim ownership of a painting by Vincent Van Gogh which actress Elizabeth Taylor bought 40 years ago.

The lawsuit alleges that the Nazi regime seized the 1889 painting "View of the Asylum and Chapel at Saint-Remy" after its rightful owner Margarete Mauthner fled from Germany to South Africa in 1939.

In a February 2 ruling made public on Monday, US Dictrict Court Judge Gary Klausner said the state law that applies in the case allows individuals to sue for up to three years after their property is taken.

The South African and Canadian descendants of Mauthner maintain in their lawsuit that Taylor must have known when she purchased the painting at an auction in 1963 for 257,600 dollars that it had been stolen by government officials of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles after the actress in May attempted to get a local court to declare her the rightful owner of the painting.

Twice Oscar winner Taylor, 72, acquired the painting at a Sotheby's auction in London at the height of her Hollywood carreer. Since then, the Van Gogh has been handing in her Los Angeles mansion.

Mauthner's relatives said the painting was confiscated by the Nazis at the start of World War II and that Taylor and her representatives were aware of its origins.

Taylor maintains the Sotheby's catalog of the 1963 auction stated that the painting at one time had belonged to Mauthner and that after it was shown in two prestigious art galleries it was sold to Aldred Wolf, another Jew who fled Nazi Germany for Buenos Aires.

The actress said the Van Gogh belonged to Wolf when she purchased it at the
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