Pissarro Painting, Seized by Vichy France During WWII, to Be Returned to Jewish Art Collector's Family

Court rules that Pissarro painting 'La Cueillette des Pois,' bought by an American couple from Christie's in 1995, must be given to the previous owner's descendants

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Camille Pissarro's 1887 painting 'La Cueillette des Pois,' or 'Picking Peas.'
Camille Pissarro's 1887 painting 'La Cueillette des Pois,' or 'Picking Peas.'Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Simon Bauer collection

A Paris court ordered the return of a painting by Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro to the family of a Jewish art collector whose collection was seized by France’s Vichy government.

The relatives of Simon Bauer, a wealthy businessman whose assets were seized in 1943 by the anti-Semitic wartime French government that collaborated with the Nazis, sued for the return of the 1887 painting “La Cueillette des Pois,” or “Picking Peas.” The court issued its decision Tuesday.

The current owners, American citizens Bruce and Robbi Toll, had lent the painting for display to the Marmottan museum in Paris. A court in May granted the Bauer descendants’ request to have the painting impounded while waiting for the court to rule on ownership rights.

The Tolls bought the painting in an auction at Christie’s in New York in 1995 for $800,000.

Their attorney told reporters after the ruling that the Tolls would appeal.

“My clients will be very disappointed not to be able to retrieve this painting, they were very attached to it,” Ron Soffer said. “They do not consider that it is up to them for pay for the crimes of the Vichy regime.”

Bauer survived World War II due in part to a strike by rail workers that stopped a train from deporting him to a Nazi concentration camp.