The National Gallery, London, might find itself at the center of a lawsuit after it rejected one family’s claim to a “stolen” Henri Matisse portrait of Greta Moll.
Since the end of World War II, the restitution of stolen and looted artworks has been a grueling process that continues to this day. The descendants of Greta Moll, who was the subject of a 1908 portrait by Henri Matisse, are disputing the current ownership of the painting, currently held by the National Gallery, London. The family has argued the portrait was misappropriated in the years following 1947.
The family suggests that Greta and Oskar Moll left Berlin after the war with Wales as their destination. As their only financial asset, Greta sought to ensure the safety of the portrait and avoid an export ban by entrusting it to Gertrud Djamarani, who in turn left it as collateral to dealer Heidi Vollmöller. The work resurfaced in 1979 after the National Gallery acquired it at auction, apparently suggesting that Vollmöller had sold the work years earlier.
With this information in hand, the family formally filed a petition with the museum for the portrait’s return, which was recently denied. Heirs to the Moll family have threatened to file a lawsuit if the painting is not returned. It seems litigation might be unavoidable.
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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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