The death of an individual can sometimes lead to disagreements among those who feel entitled — by blood or law — to acquire their possessions. This was recently demonstrated in the case of the late heiress Huguette Clark.
Huguette Marcelle Clark (1906-2011) was considered a great philanthropist, donating much of her inherited fortune to various charities. However, the late heiress was also labeled a recluse, living in a hospital for more than 20 years while her mansions remained empty. That hospital, Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, recently found itself in a legal battle with Clark’s distant relatives over donations she made to the institution more than 15 years ago.
Among the items donated to the hospital was a beautiful painting by Édouard Manet, “Peonies in a Bottle” (1864), worth an estimated $3.5 million. In addition to the painting, Clark donated cash gifts totaling nearly $1 million to the institution over several years.
Relatives argued that museum staff and administrators frequently approached Clark for donations during her tenure with the hospital, taking advantage of her old age and manipulating her into giving away her prized possessions.
Last month, Manhattan Judge Nora S. Anderson ruled in favor of the hospital, deeming that the statute of limitations had long passed, since it was in October of 2002 that Clark made her last donation. However, relatives are still able to pursue separate lawsuits against doctors and nurses who cared for Clark.
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This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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