Associated Press, Dec. 24, 2002
L.A. Man Sues for Picasso Stolen by Nazis
LOS ANGELES - The grandson of a Jewish woman who fled Germany during World
War II has asked a judge to order an art collector to return a Pablo Picasso
painting allegedly stolen by the Nazis or pay $10 million to keep it.
Thomas Bennigson received a call earlier this year from an international art
registry, notifying him that the painting had been located, said his
attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg.
The 1922 Picasso painting, known as "Femme en blanc" or "Femme assise," was
found in a Los Angeles art gallery, where it was up for sale. The painting
was returned to owner Marilyn Alsdorf in Chicago without being sold.
Schoenberg said a new state law extends the statute of limitations for all
claims against museums and galleries over Nazi-looted artworks to Dec. 31,
A judge ruled Dec. 20 that the painting should be returned to Los Angeles
until a scheduled Jan. 10 preliminary hearing. Another hearing was scheduled
for Friday, Schoenberg said.
Schoenberg said he and Alsdorf's lawyer agreed Monday that the painting
could remain in Chicago for the time being.
Alsdorf's attorney, David Rownd, said his client knew nothing about the
painting's apparent history.
Alsdorf's late husband, James, bought the painting from a New York gallery
in 1975 for $357,000, according to a court declaration filed by Sarah
Jackson, of the Art Loss Register in London.
Jackson said the register the world's largest private international
database of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectibles learned about
the Nazi theft after a French art dealer who had been considering buying the
painting requested an investigation.
Before Bennigson's grandmother escaped Nazi Germany, she sent the painting
to a Parisian art dealer for safekeeping. Nazis looted the painting and
other valuables in 1940, according to a 1958 letter from the dealer.
Bennigson, a law student at the University of California, Berkeley, said his
grandmother unsuccessfully searched for the painting before her death in