Heiress Backs Off 10-Year Legal Battle Over $1.8 Million Painting Stolen By Nazis

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Ashley Carnahan Contributor
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A French heiress gave up an estimated $1.8 million painting that was stolen by the Nazis after a ten-year legal battle, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

81-year-old Léone-Noëlle Meyer released a statement Tuesday saying it has “proven impossible” to convince the disputing sides of her wishes. “For almost 10 years, I have battled in order to obtain the recognition of the principle that the restitution of a pillaged work of art should occur independently of any other consideration related to its provenance, its history or its successive ‘owners,’” Meyer said, according to The Guardian.

“But after all these years, I have to admit it has proven impossible to convince the different parties to whose attention I have brought this matter. I was heard but not listened to.”

Meyer’s adoptive parents Raoul and Yvonne Meyer placed the Pissaro painting, “La Bergère Rentrant des Moutons” (Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep), in a bank vault after fleeing Nazi-occupied France in 1940, according to the report.

The Nazis raided the vault in 1941. Raoul Meyer could not track down the Pissaro painting until 1951, but by that time, the statute of limitations on a 1945 art recovery law had expired. (RELATED: US Museums Are Refusing To Return Art Stolen By Nazis)

The picture was sold to the Wietzenhoffer family in 1957 then donated to the Fred Jones Jr Museum at the University of Oklahoma in 2000, according to The Art Newspaper.

Meyer reportedly discovered the painting in the Fred Jones Museum in 1990 and sued the university in 2013, seeking the return of the painting. A 2016 settlement with the university transferred ownership of the work to her, and the painting was returned to France, according to The National Post.

Part of the 2016 settlement reportedly stated that Meyer would share the painting with the university, and it would rotate between France and the U.S. over a period of three years, however, Meyer had a change of heart and wanted the painting to remain at the d’Orsay museum in Paris due to costly shipping fees.

After losing several court cases in her favor, Meyer’s lawyer Ron Soffer said she has “decided to put an end to her struggle to obtain restitution of this painting.”

“The University of Oklahoma has now obtained full title to the painting. As far as Mrs. Meyer is concerned, they are free to do with it as they please,” he said according to The Guardian.

“It is regrettable that the struggle for justice by an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor whose entire family was murdered in Auschwitz seems to have been rebuffed. My client has fought for the memory of her parents and for the principle that France should not be deprived of an artwork that provides historical testimony to the years of war and occupation in France,” Soffer continued.