By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
can keep a famed painting by Paul Cezanne that an art
collector's great-grandson had argued was improperly acquired
after being confiscated by the Russian Bolshevik regime a
century ago, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
The painting "Madame Cezanne in the Conservatory" or
"Portrait of Madame Cezanne," was bequeathed to the Met by
Stephen Clark, a collector and museum trustee who died in 1960.
Clark had bought the painting in 1933.
In a 2010 lawsuit, Pierre Konowaloff, who says he is the
sole heir of Ivan Morozov, a Russian whose art collection was
declared state property following the 1917 revolution, sought
the return of the painting.
But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, in a
written ruling on Tuesday, rejected Konowaloff's claim.
The lawsuit claimed the Bolshevik seizure amounted to
punishment without legal process. Konowaloff also argued that
the painting's sale might have violated Russian laws prohibiting
the export of artwork of historical importance.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan dismissed
the lawsuit in September 2011, saying legal doctrine precludes
U.S. courts from inquiring into the validity of decisions by
recognized foreign sovereign governments within their own
The 2nd Circuit agreed. The decision by a three-judge panel
of the court found that the lawsuit on its face was barred by
what is called the "act of state" doctrine.
The court also said that because Morozov did not own the
painting after 1918, Konowaloff, who lives in Paris, did not
have legal standing to complain about its sale or treatment
after that date.
The 1891 oil painting is part of the Met's collection.
"We are gratified that the court has confirmed our faith in
the ownership history of this work of art, and pleased that the
Met can continue to share this beautiful picture with its
millions of visitors," Harold Holzer, a museum spokesman, said
in a statement.
James Tyrrell, a lawyer for Konowaloff at law firm Patton
Boggs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case is Konowaloff v. The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 11-4338.
For Konowaloff: James Tyrrell, Patton Boggs.
For the Met: David Bowker, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale &
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