A Vincent Van Gogh painting called the The Night Cafe was originally owned by the family of Pierre Knowaloff, who claims the Russian government seized the painting during the communist revolution. And the family wanted it back, or damages in the form of $120 to $150 million, which is what the Van Gogh painting is estimated to be worth.
In a related report by The Inquisitr, an unknown Van Gogh painting was discovered in a Norwegian attic this past fall. The painting was kept in storage because it was believed to be a fake, but the Van Gogh Museum determined the painting was indeed authentic.
Knowaloff’s grandfather, Ivan Morozov, allegedly bought The Night Cafe in 1908. But when the communists took over Russia they nationalized the personal property of every citizen and seized the painting, only to sell it later. Yale University alumnus Stephen Carlton Clark purchased the Van Gogh painting from a New York City art gallery in either 1933 or 1934 only to give the painting to the college.
The lawyers for Konowaloff argued that Yale’s purchase of the Van Gogh painting amounted to “art laundering” since the Soviet government unlawfully seized the artwork. They called upon the United States to deem this act a theft and a violation of international law.
But Yale argued that the communists nationalization of personal property did not violate international law. They also pointed out that invalidating previous actions by the Russians could create unnecessary tensions between the United States and Russia during a time when Vladimir Putin and President Obama are already butting heads over Ukraine. They also believed that siding with the family’s position would cast the ownership of artwork all over the world into doubt.
Knowaloff’s lawyer, Allan Gerson, denied that Russian authorities were concerned about the case affecting Russian paintings:
“There’s never been another case in which act of state has been invoked where the state — here, Russia — that the court is ostensibly trying to protect from embarrassment has actually cooperated with the court.”
Regardless, the judge in the case agreed with Yale University, which satisfied their lawyer Jonathan Freiman greatly:
“We’re pleased that the court has dismissed Konowaloff’s claims. The Night Cafe is a timeless masterpiece that the public can see free of charge, and in this suit Yale has worked to make sure it stays that way.”
Do you think the Van Gogh painting The Night Cafe should been given back to the Russian family?