B. Cremades y Asociados represents Jewish communities in Pissarro art case

Madrid law firm B. Cremades y Asociados has appeared before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the Jewish Community of Madrid and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain in relation to a dispute centring on Camille Pissarro’s painting, ‘Rue St. Honoré, après midi, effet de pluie’.

B. Cremades y Asociados – which was founded by partner Bernardo M. Cremades (pictured) – presented arguments in support of the appeal filed by the Cassirer family against the Federal Judge’s decision in the Central District of California, on April 30, 2019, which ruled that it was not proven that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum Foundation acquired the painting, knowing (or that it should have known) that it was stolen.

The issue now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the legal standard of diligence that a professional art buyer – such as the Foundation – should have applied at the time of the acquisition of the painting in 1993. If the District Judge had adopted the applicable standard for an art professional, which would have been expected by virtue of article 1104 of the Spanish Civil Code, he would have come to the conclusion that the Foundation’s performance falls within article 1956 of the Spanish Civil Code, so that in no case can the Foundation be considered as the legitimate owner of the painting, a B. Cremades & Associates statement said.

It added: “The District Judge recognised the existence of a series of circumstances that could have led to the belief that the painting was stolen, which were sufficient to conclude that Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza did not acquire the painting in good faith in 1976. However, the District Judge’s ruling considers that such circumstances were not relevant enough to alert the Foundation when it acquired the painting in 1993.”

The statement continued: “The District Judge overlooked that, in 1993, the Foundation deliberately refused to analyse the origin of the painting beyond 1980, assuming instead that any irregularity in the Baron’s acquisition would have been validated by the passage of time. In this sense, the Foundation’s lawyers said in a 1989 report that ‘it is unlikely that any fraud or theft affecting the property title of the paintings prior to them being acquired by the [Thyssen-Bornemisza] family would extend to more than a single painting, or to a small group of paintings’. Also, the lawyers’ report of the contemporary Foundation to the acquisition expressly assumed that Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza had acquired the painting in good faith, which has been discredited by the District Judge. Thus, the District Judge’s sentence incurs a manifest logical incoherence, making it clear that the Foundation intentionally accepted to run the risk of the painting being stolen.

“In his decision of 30 April 2019, the District Judge already harshly criticised the Foundation and the Kingdom of Spain for refusing to return the painting, given that Spain is a signatory to the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration, saying that the Foundation and Spain would be in breach of their moral obligations by not returning the painting,” the statement said. It added “The Cassirers, the Comunidad Judía de Madrid and the Federación de Comunidades de Judías de España also hope to demonstrate that the Foundation is failing to meet its legal obligations.”


Ben Cook