Monet Painting Sold By Jewish Owner After Fleeing Nazis To Be Auctioned After Settlement With His Heirs

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Carlie Porterfield   Forbes U.S. Staff

Monet Painting Sold By Jewish Owner After Fleeing Nazis To Be Auctioned After Settlement With His Heirs

A rare painting by French impressionist Claude Monet is going up for auction next month after Christie’s auction house helped the owners reach a settlement with the heirs of its former owner, a wealthy Jewish-German industrialist who sold his art collection to raise money after fleeing Germany when the Nazis came to power.

KEY FACTS

- “La Mare, effet de neige” is a winter landscape scene that shows snow melting and the first signs of spring appearing in Argenteuil, France, a then rural suburb of Paris where Monet and other French artists—like Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet and Eugène Delacroix—would go to paint.

- By the early 1930s, the painting was in the collection of Richard Semmel, a Berlin textiles manufacturer who was a member of the German Democratic Party and an avid art collector.

-After the Nazi Party took power in 1933, Semmel fled to Amsterdam, where he auctioned off much of his art collection after he had to give up his factory and other means of income before escaping to New York.

- Christie’s restitution department “discovered important new information” about the provenance of the work during research, Christie’s Americas chairman Marc Porter said in a statement, and worked with Semmel’s heirs and the painting’s anonymous owners to come up with a settlement.

BIG NUMBER

$25 million. That’s how much “La Mare, effet de neige” could fetch at auction, according to Christie’s. It will go up for sale next month as part of the auction house’s 20th Century Evening Sale alongside work by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol.

KEY BACKGROUND

Semmel’s heirs—shown in court documents to be two granddaughters of Grete Gross-Eisenstädt, a woman who was Semmel’s sole heir when he died in 1950 and reportedly had a romantic relationship with him—have launched multiple bids to have his artwork returned. Last year, a museum in the Netherlands that had one of his paintings in its collection agreed to pay more than $217,000 in compensation, even though the Dutch government’s Restitutions Committee recommended against restitution or compensation in 2013. In 2014, the National Museum of Victoria in Australia agreed to hand over a painting attributed to Van Gogh that had been in the institution’s collection for more than 70 years when it was discovered to have links to Semmel.

TANGENT

Last year, another painting that changed hands in Europe during the Nazi era was sold at Christie’s for $35.8 million. “Meules de blé,” a watercolor by Van Gogh, was sold under duress by a Jewish-German businessman in 1938 only to be seized by Nazis two years later from the Paris art collection of banking heiress Alexandrine de Rothschild.

SURPRISING FACT

Nazi art dealers are believed to have acquired 20% of Europe’s transportable art between 1933 and 1945, according to a U.S. government estimate.

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Carlie Porterfield   Forbes U.S. Staff

I am a Texas native covering breaking news out of New York City. Previously, I was a Forbes intern in London. I am an alum of City, University of London and Texas State University.