Yale Can Keep Van Gogh Masterpiece as Supreme Court Rejects Appeal

YALE UNIVERSITY

Vanderbilt Hall stands on the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut, on June 12, 2015.

Photographer: Craig Warga/Bloomberg

Yale University can keep a Vincent Van Gogh masterpiece after the U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal from a man who says the Bolsheviks seized the painting from his great-grandfather after the 1917 Soviet revolution.

Pierre Konowaloff has been trying to recoup “The Night Café” since he learned in 2008 that it was hanging in the Yale Art Gallery. His great-grandfather, Ivan Morozov, had the painting for 10 years before the Bolshevik secret police occupied his house and seized his art collection in 1918.

The Soviet government sold the painting in 1933 to Stephen Clark, a New York resident and heir to the Singer Manufacturing Co. fortune, and he bequeathed it to Yale in 1960.

In siding with Yale, a federal appeals court in New York cited the “act of state” doctrine, under which U.S. courts generally won’t second-guess a property seizure by a foreign government. The appeals court earlier ruled against Konowaloff in a similar dispute with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York over a Paul Cezanne painting.

The case is Konowaloff v. Yale, 15-921.

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