Bavaria Sued by Mendelssohn’s Heirs for Refusing to Return Picasso

The family of classical composer Felix Mendelssohn is suing the German state of Bavaria over Picasso’s Madame Soler, 1903, report Isabel Vincent and Bruce Golding of the New York Post. The state is refusing to return the portrait from the artist’s Blue Period, which the family alleges was formerly owned by Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, a Berlin banker, art collector, and relative of the nineteenth-century composer. According to the lawsuit, at the time of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s death in 1935, the painting was consigned to Berlin art dealer Justin Thannhauser, who later sold it to the Bavarian State Paintings Collection through its incoming director, former Nazi party member Halldor Soehner. Under his direction, Bavaria auctioned off more than a hundred works that were previously owned by Nazi officials by concealing their provenance to allure prospective buyers.

The Mendelssohn-Bartholdy heirs have previously won $5 million in litigation against the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Guggenheim over two other Picassos from his collection. In this case, the suit states that Bavaria, on top of withholding the work, has not filed the dispute with Germany’s Limbach Commission, which handles claims over Nazi-owned art.