In overruling the trial court’s September 2, 2008 opinion in Bakalar v. Vavra, Index No. 05-CV-3037 (S.D.N.Y.), the U.S. Court of Appeals determined that the heirs of Austrian-Jewish entertainer Fritz Grunbaum could proceed with their Holocaust-era art restitution claim.  According to the Court of Appeals’ September 2, 2010 decision, the trial court had wrongly applied Swiss law to the Bakalar case contrary to the proposition that "….in New York, a thief cannot pass good title." 

As "Searching For Nazi-Looted Art" and / or the New York Law Journal reported, Mr. Grunbaum’s heirs in Bakalar, are trying to recover Egon Schiele’s drawing "Seated Woman With Bent Left Leg (Torso)" from its current owner, Massachusetts sculptor David Bakalar.  According to Mr. Grunbaum’s heirs, this drawing had been looted by the Nazis from Mr. Grunbaum who perished at Dachau concentration camp.  These heirs also claimed in Bakalar, that provenance documents for the drawing had been fabricated.

One of these alleged fabricated documents was an April 24,1956 cash receipt purportedly signed by Mr. Grunbaum’s sister-in-law, Mathilde Lukacs.  The April 24th receipt arguably demonstrates that Ms. Lukacs had sold the drawing in 1956 to art dealer Eberhard Kornfeld at Galerie Gutekunst & Klipstein.  At their closing statement during the Bakalar trial, Mr. Grunbaum’s heirs asserted Ms. Lukacs questioned signature on the April 24th receipt was not genuine:

(April 24, 1956 Receipt With Blue Emphasis Added) 

Copyright 2010 Fred L. Abrams