A groups of heirs in the United States is reportedly suing a museum in another country over the ownership of a single painting. They are asking that the painting, which they believe was stolen decades ago, be returned. In lieu of the return of the art, say reports, the heirs are asking for $30 million in settlement from the museum.
The painting in question is a portrait of Greta Moll. The heirs filing suit are her grandchildren. The portrait was painted in 1908, according to reports.
Like many pieces of art in World War II era Europe, the Greta Moll portrait has a storied history. It remained as part of the Moll estate for decades after it was painted, but during the occupation of Germany, Moll was worried that the art would be stolen or destroyed. She and her husband were not in favor with the Nazi regime, and there was some danger to their home.
To protect the portrait, Moll sent it with someone to another country. The artwork wasn't protected, though, and the heirs' lawyer claims that it was sold in an illicit transaction. Since that time, it's changed hands numerous times and Moll died not knowing where the painting ended up. The heirs have apparently tracked the painting down to a museum in London.
This case pits the heirs' rights to the painting, which was legally part of Moll's estate and appears to have been stolen, against the museum's rights to the same piece. The museum did purchase the art, but the heirs claim it should have seen the red flags in the ownership history. While you probably won't deal with stolen art in any estate you become privy to, it might be a good idea as an heir to work with a legal professional to ensure all the other items in any estate are appropriately accounted for.