A Jewish family, trying to retrieve a long-lost Matisse looted by the Nazis, could get the painting back by the end of the year, says the lawyer representing the family on Monday.
London-based attorney Christopher Marinello, who works for the Rosenberg family, welcomed a Swiss museum's agreement to accept the controversial inheritance of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of a Nazi-era art dealer, saying it was good news for his clients.
AdvertisementAsked if he could pick up the painting known as "Seated Woman" and believed to be worth $20 million by the end of December, Marinello told, "I would hope so. I think that it's just a matter of some paperwork now."
He added: "When I get the call to come to Munich and retrieve the picture, that's when we've reached the end."
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Switzerland, agreed Monday to accept Gurlitt's bequest of a spectacular stash of art hoarded by his powerful father.
But it said that, as part of an accord with the German government, it would restitute any works found to have been stolen by the Nazis.
A German government-appointed panel determined in June that the Matisse was "Nazi loot" stolen from Paris art collector Paul Rosenberg.
German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters told reporters that three such works including the Matisse would be returned "without delay" to the rightful heirs.
Rosenberg's descendants include French journalist Anne Sinclair, former wife of ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Marinello said his clients were "grateful" the museum had accepted the bequest, noting that the alternative would have been to "deal with the Gurlitt family through the probate courts".
He declined to say whether the Rosenberg heirs would keep the painting or put it up for auction.
He called the agreement, under which the German state will finance provenance research on the collection, a "novel approach".
Marinello, whose law practice specialises in art stolen under the Third Reich, said the Gurlitt case underlined how much work was left to do in the field.
"Generally speaking I would say that the problem of Nazi-looted art is very much with us 75 years later and I think the reason... is that it hasn't been adequately dealt with by museums, by the collectors, and cultural institutions all over the world," he said.
Marinello called for a "collaborative effort" to perform due diligence on suspected Nazi loot.
"In my view there are more Cornelius Gurlitts out there," he said. "This is not the last Nazi-looted art case we're going to see."