Supreme Court Won't Hear Van Gogh Dispute Between Elizabeth Taylor, Nazi Escapee's Kin
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider a dispute involving Elizabeth Taylor over ownership of a Vincent van Gogh painting. The painting is claimed by descendants of a Jewish woman who fled Nazi Germany.
The painting, worth millions, may be among the estimated 600,000 works of art that belonged to Jews and wound up in Nazi hands between 1933 and 1945.
Van Gogh painted "View of the Asylum" less than a year before his suicide.
Margarete Mauthner, a one-time owner of the van Gogh, left Germany in March 1939, having lost her livelihood and most of her property due to Nazi policies of economic coercion. Relatives of Mauthner, a noted translator and advocate of the arts, say the painting was among the property she lost to the Nazis.
In 1963 while living in London, Taylor bought the painting for about $236,000 at a Sotheby's auction from the estate of a German art collector.
Taylor's lawyers say the record shows the painting was sold through two Jewish art dealers to a Jewish art collector, with no evidence of any Nazi coercion or participation in the transactions.
The family members say they didn't discover they had a possible claim to the painting until 2001.
Mauthner's heirs went to court to recover the artwork, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that the federal Holocaust Victims Redress Act does not create a private right to sue. Mauthner's relatives also are trying to recover the painting under California state law, but the appeals court ruled they waited too long to act.
Taylor, 75, won Oscars for her roles in "BUtterfield 8" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" She was nominated for Academy Awards for "Raintree County," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Suddenly, Last Summer."