Contentious Nahmad Modigliani Masterpiece: Geneva storage Facility Raided By Authorities

Back in 2014 Artlyst reported that Amedeo Modigliani’s Seated Man with a Cane, a 1918 painting that was allegedly stolen by the Nazis from Oscar Stettiner, a prominent Paris gallerist was in dispute by the heir to Mr Stettiner’s estate one Phillippe Maestracci. In 1939. Stettiner escaped Paris leaving the painting behind. The work was confiscated by Marcel Philippon, who was appointed by the Nazis to sell the Stettiner property. 

The prominent art dealer David Nahmad is now being sued by relatives of the descendants of Oscar Stettiner for the return of the masterpiece. Mr Nahmad previously stated that he wasn’t the owner of the painting but It has now come to light through the recent Panama Papers revelations that Mr Nahmad is indeed the owner of the contentious Modigliani. Swiss prosecutors have now raided a storage facility in Geneva in search of the painting, identified as belonging to David Nahmad.  Prosecutor Claudio Mascotto launched the search for the painting at a unit belonging to art storage company Rodolphe Haller at Ports Francs Geneva, as he believed the $25 million artwork to be inside. As part of the case, investigators on Friday entered the facilities at the Geneva Free Ports, and confiscated the painting.

Lawyers for the Nahmad family stated in 2014 that Mr Nahmad never owned “Seated Man with a Cane” by Modigliani. The billionaire New York art dealing family said the painting was owned by the International Art Center (IAC) and that the Nahmad Gallery have never owned the work. However lawyers for Philippe Maestracci have revealed Modigliani’s Seated Man with a Cane, is owned by an offshore company used by the Nahmads as a cover for their interests in works of art, most of which are kept in an art storage facility, in tax free Geneva.

The Nahmads purchased the work at Christie’s, London, in June 1996 for $3.2m. The painting has been publicly displayed at museums and galleries around the world. A Christie’s catalogue states as provenance that the masterpiece belonged to Roger Dutilleul a Paris collector who sold it to J. Livengood, in Paris, around 1940 to 1945, however holes in the provenance have now appeared, including the exhibiting of the picture at the Venice Biennial in the 1930. In November 2008, the work was consigned by the Nahmads to Sotheby’s, where it was went unsold in a high profile sale. Sotheby’s raised the possibility that the work was stolen by the Nazis at which time the Nahmads allegedly moved the painting to Switzerland. Back in 2014, Richard Golub, the Nahmads’ lawyer, called these claims “totally false”. 

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