Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting “The Night Café” was definitely one of his masterpieces. It depicted the 1880’s café interiors beautifully. This painting by the famous Dutch artist was purchased by Yale University in 1961. It is said that the Soviets later took the painting from Pierre Konowaloff’s family during the Russian revolution. The ownership of the beautiful masterpiece has been in question since time immemorial and Yale sued was in 2009 to block Konowaloff from claiming it. Since then the case has been quite a point of discussion.
The verdict by the Court:
The federal court has finally supported and ruled the decision in favor of Yale University regarding the ownership of $200 million Vincent Van Gogh piece. The claims made by Pierre Konowaloff were dismissed by the federal court that said the painting in question was stolen from the Konowaloff family during the Russian revolution. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling by the lower court in 2014 subsequently declaring that the “The Night Café” definitely belonged to Yale.
Supporting his decision, the Federal Judge who backed Yale last year cited the further mentioned doctrine in support. The doctrine said that the U.S. courts do not examine the validity of foreign government’s expropriation orders. It also backed the decision taken by its lower body last year and declared it to be appropriate.
On the other hand, Yale University seems quite pleased by the decision. The university will be equally proud to keep the painting on display in its campus. The university, part of the esteemed Ivy League, also pointed out that the ownership of other goods which were valued at tens of billions of dollars would have been brought under the question had the decision been passed in favor of Konowaloff and they were allowed to keep the painting.
Comments from the parties:
Konowaloff’s lawyer, Allan Gerson said that the university should have asked about the whereabouts of the painting when it was received by them. As per him the painting should have been brought under pronunciation before any party took possession of it. As per Allan, it would be far more appropriate to quote that his client Konowaloff did not counter question the confiscation at all, making the verdict easier. Though, he praised the Russian government for substantiating the claim made by his client that the painting was stolen. He also said that the court passed the judgment a bit too soon without considering his side of argument.
Amidst the arguments raised by the appeals court, the judges said that as Konowaloff accepted the legality of the fact that the Soviets took the painting immediately after the revolution, any kind of legal claim or interest in the painting by then stands extinguished and void-ab-initio.
Though, Konowaloff stood by his statement that the painting was purchased by his great grandfather Ivan Morozov in 1908 and as Russia nationalized Morozov’s property during the Soviet revolution, the government later sold the painting.
The 1888 masterpiece, which shows an empty café and its ambience, now is at display hanging in the Yale University Art Gallery.