Nazi-Looted Monet Painting Held by FBI Expected to Be Returned to Owner’s Descendants

A small pastel drawing by Claude Monet that was seized by Nazis during World War II is expected to be returned to the descendants of its previous owners by the the FBI, the Times-Picayune reported last week.

Monet’s Bord de Mer is currently in storage at the New Orleans Field Office of the FBI after being seized last June. The work was last sold by New Orleans-based antiquities dealer M.S. Rau. to Bridget Vita and now-deceased husband Kevin Schlamp in 2019. Schlamp died in March. The FBI seized the work after its research brought the work’s provenance into question.

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The work was initially acquired by Adalbert and Hilda Parlagi in April 1936 and kept at their home in Vienna, Austria. Not long after Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, they were forced to flee to Switzerland and, subsequently, London, with their two children.

The family stored the painting and other belongings in a shipping company warehouse in Vienna. Though they planned to fetch the possessions after the war, German authorities seized the property in 1940. The following year, it was auctioned by the Dorotheum auction house, which ultimately sold it to another auction house owned by Nazi Party member and known trafficker of looted art Adolf Weinmüller.

When the war ended, the family and heirs appealed to the German and Austrian governments for the return of the artwork, but were unsuccessful. In 2016, the work was included in an exhibition in Ornans, France, where it was on loan from the Paris–based Galerie Helene Bailly. In 2017, it was purchased from Galerie Helene Bailly by Rau, who sold it on, according to a lawsuit filed by the federal government with U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana last week.

According to court documents, Vita and Schlamp waived their rights to the painting at the time of the FBI seizure. The federal government is asking the court to decide the proper owner of the painting.

The claimants of the property Françoise Parlagi and Helen Lowe, among a couple other parties, are the grandchildren and only living heirs of the Parlagis.

While the court has yet to decide, Rau told the Times-Picayune that he expects the lawsuit to be settled without conflict. “All of the parties have reached an amicable agreement to happily return the pastel to its rightful heirs in light of the work’s provenance, which was of course completely unknown to all of the trading parties,” Rau said.


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