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Marei Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art At Pasadena

March 22, 2012

MAREI VON SAHER
v.
NORTON SIMON MUSEUM OF ART AT PASADENA, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable John F. Walter, United States District Judge

JS-6

CIVIL MINUTES -- GENERAL

Shannon Reilly

Courtroom Deputy

ATTORNEYS PRESENT FOR PLAINTIFFS:

None

None Present

Court Reporter

ATTORNEYS PRESENT FOR DEFENDANTS:

None

PROCEEDINGS (IN CHAMBERS): ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM UPON WHICH RELIEF CAN BE GRANTED [filed 12/27/2011; Docket No. 76]

On December 27, 2011, Defendants Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena and The Norton Simon Art Foundation (collectively "Defendants" or "Norton Simon") filed a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted. On February 10, 2012, Plaintiff Marei von Saher ("Plaintiff") filed her Opposition. On March 7, 2012, Defendants filed a Reply.*fn1 Pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 7-15, the Court finds that this matter is appropriate for decision without oral argument. The hearing calendared for March 26, 2012 is hereby vacated and the matter taken off calendar. After considering the moving, opposing, and reply papers and the arguments therein, the Court rules as follows:

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff seeks to recover the diptych entitled "Adam and Eve," a pair of sixteenth century oil paintings on wood panels by Lucas Cranach the Elder (the "Cranachs"), which were taken by the Nazis during World War II from Plaintiff's father-in-law, Jacques Goudstikker, in a forced sale. The Cranachs were acquired by Norton Simon from George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff in 1970-71 and have been continuously on display at the Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena since 1979.

A. The Paintings and Their History

In 1931, the Soviet government held an art auction in Berlin titled the "Stroganoff Collection," which featured artworks formerly in the collection of the Stroganoff familyas well as other artworks. The Cranachs were among the auctioned works. According to Plaintiff, the Cranachs were not part of the Stroganoff family's collection, but instead came from the Church of the Holy Trinity in Kiev, Ukraine. Jacques Goudstikker ("Goudstikker"), a prominent Dutch art dealer and Plaintiff's predecessor-in-interest, purchased the Cranachs at the 1931 art auction.

Nazi Germany invaded The Netherlands in May 1940, and Goudstikker fled with his wife and son, Desi and Edo, to South America by ship. Although Goudstikker was forced to leave his art gallery and collection behind, Goudstikker brought with him a black notebook (the "Blackbook") which listed over 1,000 artworks he had left in The Netherlands, including the Cranachs. Goudstikker unfortunately died in a ship-board accident.

After the Goudstikkers escaped, the Nazis looted Goudstikker's gallery. Herman Goring, Reischsmarschall of the Third Reich, and his cohort, Alois Miedl, forcibly purchased the Goudstikker assets in two transactions at a fraction of their value. Miedl took Goudstikker's real property, the art dealership itself, and personal property, ...


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