LOS ANGELES – Four descendants of a German woman whose possessions were confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s sued actress Elizabeth Taylor (search) in federal court to recover a valuable Vincent van Gogh (search) painting.
Taylor failed to review the ownership history of "View of the Asylum of Saint-Remy" (search) before buying it more than 40 years ago, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday by Andrew J. Orkin of Canada and three South African residents, F. Mark Orkin, Sarah-Rose Josepha Adler and A. Heinrich Zille.
They are descendants of Margarete Mauthner (search) seeking restitution and to acquire the Gogh painting that Taylor's father bought for her at an auction in 1963, according to the lawsuit.
Andrew Orkin said in a phone interview that he, F. Mark Orkin and Adler are Mauthner's great-grandchildren.
"We want the painting back right now. It's a Nazi-confiscated asset and we're entitled to have the painting returned to us," Thomas Hamilton, the plaintiffs' attorney, said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.
Taylor's attorney, Steve Reiss, said Thursday he had not seen the complaint but added, "it seems to me simply an attempt to get publicity."
The federal lawsuit followed one Taylor filed in May requesting to be declared the rightful owner of the painting, which has been appraised between $10 million to $15 million at auction and had hung in the living room of her Bel-Air estate.
"Under normal proceedings they would answer our lawsuit," not file a new lawsuit, Reiss said.
In 1963, Taylor's father, Francis Taylor, bought the painting on his daughter's behalf for $257,600 at a Sotheby's auction in London.
The sales brochure had warned that the painting was likely confiscated by the Nazis, according to the lawsuit.
Hamilton acknowledged that though the painting subsequently came under the ownership of art collector Alfred Wolf, the Holocaust Victims Redress Act guarantees that confiscated artwork would be returned to victims of Nazi persecution.
At least three publications used by art dealers showed that Mauthner was the owner of the painting, Hamilton said.
In a statement issued after her lawsuit was filed, Taylor said, "I have not been presented with any information that suggests the painting was ever in Nazi possession, nor that there is any other basis for these claims."