MFAH is allowed to paint Bernardo Bellotto

MFAH said it rightfully owned the “Pirna market place”, while a previous owner’s grandsons argued it should be returned because of the way it left their heirs.

HOUSTON — A dispute over an 18th-century painting brought the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to federal court earlier this year, but a judge has since dismissed the case, allowing the museum to keep the artwork.

The people who tried to take the painting are the grandsons of a German businessman who they say sold the Bernardo Bellotto painting under duress to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s dealer.

Editor’s Note: The videos attached to this article are from a previous report.

RELATED: The Houston Museum of Fine Arts is embroiled in a lawsuit over Bernardo Bellotto painting


MFAH issued the following statement on dismissal:

“The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has received an immediate and final decision from the federal court in this matter. As was the case in 2006-2007, when we thoroughly researched and verified the claim, we found no evidence to suggest the Bellotto was stolen, confiscated, or confiscated, and we have extensive documentation that Dr Titel .”

The Monuments Men Foundation issued the following statement regarding the verdict:

“On May 27, 2021, MFAH director Gary Tinterow wrote to the Monuments Men Foundation: ‘There is no physical evidence linking the MFAH image (Bellotto) to Emden, the Reich Chancellery or Linz.’ That was wrong. At the time of his testimony, the museum’s website listed both Max Emden and Karl Haberstock, Hitler’s top art buyers, in the title chain. In June, museum staff deleted both Emden and Haberstock from the title chain, but the following month Tinterow confirmed Emden’s previous ownership in a print interview.

“The MFAH’s belated recognition that the Bellotto painting is an Emden family heirloom means that regardless of any court decision, a painting that once belonged to a German Jew whose fortune was stolen by the Nazis now hangs in one of our country’s wealthiest museums , because of a 1946 typographical error and a 1951 fraud. The museum now knows these facts. Instead of a demonstration of grace, we have an example of greed: the museum paid nothing for the painting. While the Monuments Men Foundation is disappointed with the court, this is by no means the end of the case or the MFAH’s moral imperative to restitute the Bellotto painting to the Emden family.”

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In the late 1930s and early 1940s, during World War II, Hitler confiscated cultural assets from other countries, including art.

During the war, allies made efforts to recover the stolen art. The people who led the movement became known as the Monuments Men. In 2014, George Clooney starred in a film based on a book by Robert Edsel that documented her endeavors.

“To try to protect cultural treasures from the destruction of war,” Edsel said about the current issue.

Edsel said he keeps their efforts alive today through the Monuments Men Foundation, and that’s where MFAH comes in.

The paintings

The painting in question is ‘Pirna Market Square’ by Bernardo Bellotto, circa 1764. It is believed to be the one donated to the museum in 1961 by art collector Samuel Kress.

One of the arguments was that the painting once belonged to German businessman Max Emden, whose descendants were forced to sell the painting under duress to Hitler’s art dealer Karl Haberstock as his assets were confiscated by Nazis in Germany.

“If you take away from them the things that they have earned throughout their lives … they will make whatever decisions they need to make to survive,” Edsel said.

MFAH argued differently. A statement said the museum had evidence that Emden bought the painting in other countries before it was sold to Haberstock at the full asking price. The museum said the sale was voluntary.

“I would like someone to explain to me how it can ever be possible to have a level playing field when dealing with Adolf Hitler and being a Jew,” Edsel said. “The underlying facts don’t change, and I think that alone is enough for the museum to say, ‘This thing stinks, we should return the painting.'”

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