Oscar Stettiner The grandson of a Jewish Parisian art dealer is demanding the return of a 25m dollar painting by the Franco-Italian Artist Amedeo Modigliani. He has filed for its return in the New York courts, with a lawsuit against the Helly Nahmad Gallery, for the recovery of the masterpiece, which failed to sell at Sotheby’s in 2008.
The case is being spearheaded by Philippe Maestracci, Stettiner’s grandson, who has brought allegations that the Nazis stole “Seated Man With a Cane” (1918),in 1939 after the dealer fled France from the oppressive Vichy regime to the unoccupied French region of Dordogne. In 1941, the Nazis appointed Marcel Philippon as a temporary administrator to sell much of Stettiner’s property, Maestracci says. Philippon sold the painting on July 3, 1944 without Stettiner’s consent, and despite his attempts after the war, Stettiner was unable to find the painting to recover it. Maestracc also argues that the painting was sold under duress. He said that this was a “reasonable and diligent” effort to void unauthorized sales of art works that belonged to his grandfather, who died in 1948.Philippe Maestracci is represented by Raymond Dowd, with Dunnington, Bartholow, and Miller.
The Helly Nahmad Gallery was in the news earlier this year when a valuable ink on linen by the French Artist Fernand Leger was stolen from New York’s posh, Upper East Side Carlyle Hotel. The work valued at $350,000 was painted in 1917 and titled “Composition aux element mecaniques.” Leger, an early modernist painter is important in the Cubist movement and is considered a 20th century master. The Leger painting, went missing from the lobby and was on loan from the Gallery which is located inside the hotel’s upmarket Madison Avenue building. The picture was later recovered in New Jersey.
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (July 12, 1884 – January 24, 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. Primarily a figurative artist, he became known for paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form. He died in Paris of tubercular meningitis, exacerbated by poverty, overwork and addiction to alcohol and narcotics. His paintings are dominated by his sense of linear design. He used line exclusively to suggest body and form, with skill and sensitivity. He used distortion as a way of highlighting characteristics of his subjects, and perhaps, maybe even their personalities. Modigliani developed his own unique style, surrounded by artists experimenting with impressionism, surrealism, and cubism. Many of his subject’s heads are elegantly bowed with swan-like necks, and sloping shoulders. The effect is delicate and gentle, yet you feel the people in these paintings are almost aloof, in a dream-like way.