Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageVincent van Gogh $200m painting remains at Yale, per court ruling

By Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi     Oct 27, 2015 in Entertainment
New Haven - A $200m Vincent van Gogh painting remains at Yale University, per a U.S. appeals court agreement with a lower court ruling. Pierre Konowaloff's claim that "The Night Café" painting was stolen from his family during the Russian Revolution were dismissed.
The battle over who rightfully owned the painting stretched over six years. Konowaloff initially sought the painting along with $75,000 in damages from the University. Since 1961, the masterpiece has hung in the Yale University Art Gallery.
In 1888, van Gogh, a Dutch artist, painted "The Night Café." It depicts the inside of a café with several customers seated along the walls.
Konowaloff said his great grandfather, Ivan Morozov, bought the painting in 1908, but Russia seized Morozov's property during the Communist revolution, then sold it.
In 1933, Stephen Clark, Yale alumnus and art collector, purchased both "The Night Café" and a Paul Cézanne masterpiece. Clark died in 1960, bequeathing the van Gogh to Yale and Cézanne's "Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory" to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met).
Madame Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet  1850–1922) in the Conservatory  Metropolitan Museum of Art  May ...
Madame Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet, 1850–1922) in the Conservatory, Metropolitan Museum of Art, May 19, 2005.
Met/Wikimedia Commons
Konowaloff said the Bolsheviks illegally took both paintings from his great-grandfather, making him, an heir, the lawful owner of both pieces.
In 2008, the claimaint's wife wrote a letter to Yale stating her husband was the rightful owner of the van Gogh. The following year, the University preemptively sued to block Konowaloff from claiming it. He followed with a counter claim.
In 2010, the University motioned for a summary judgement and argued that Konowaloff's claims were beyond the statute of limitations and that a nation seizing goods from its citizens doesn't violate international law.
Then, he filed two lawsuits, one against Yale and the other against the Met, in an attempt to retrieve the paintings. In 2012, a lower court decided against Konowaloff. On Thursday, the appeals court agreed.
Allan Gerson, who served as Konowaloff's attorney, said Yale's argument compelled the courts to "rubber-stamp good title on any dictator's plunder." Gerson said he was astounded that the judge refused to offer an oral hearing, after his side provided evidence from Russian archives.
Judge Alvin Thompson said the documents weren't relevant, because they gave evidence of the sale of the painting — not the 1918 seizure by a foreign government.
Alexander Dreier, Yale Vice President and General Counsel said Yale prevailed both in the trial court and on appeal because it relied on a well-established doctrine, under which U.S. courts decline to examine the validity of acts undertaken by foreign governments within their own territory.
Dreier noted there was one document that caused Konowaloff's case to falter.
We were also able to rely on the application of this doctrine in a virtually identical case that Mr. Konowaloff brought against the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yale prevailed both in the trial court and on appeal because it relied on a well-established doctrine, under which U.S. courts decline to examine the validity of acts undertaken by foreign governments within their own territory. We were also able to rely on the application of this doctrine in a virtually identical case that Mr. Konowaloff brought against the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Konowaloff said the manner in which Yale acquired the painting is "art laundering" and places a stamp of approval on theft, which violates international law. He also lost the case against the Met, and the Supreme Court declined to review it.
Dreier said he doesn't know whether Konowaloff will try again, adding that the Met and Yale cases are identical and rulings were based on the law.
More about Vincent van gogh, Yale university, the night cafe
More news from
Entertainment Video
Latest News
Top News