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Picasso painting withdrawn

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2006-11-10

Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto

Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto

Plans by musical giant Andrew Lloyd Webber to sell a Picasso painting in aid of his charitable foundation have been halted following claims that a previous Jewish owner was forced to sell the painting by Nazis.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation was hoping to sell the painting, Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto, which is said to be worth in excess of £30m but a court complaint in New York by Julius Schoeps claimed that he was an heir of Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy from Berlin who owned it and was forced to sell it.

Schoeps is seeking ownership of the painting or $60m in damages. His original case was dismissed by a local judge but he is seeking further legal action.

"It is an enormous disappointment that the sale of the portrait has been delayed as the result of a groundless lawsuit," said a spokesman for the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation "It will be a particular disappointment to those charitable projects, which were to benefit from the sale".

The Foundation's lawyer, Carey Ramos added: "This was a case of shameless opportunism, and an attempt to ambush the sale. It was based on speculation about what happened in 1934, but there was no proof to support the charges."

According to The Foundation, the painting was purchased in 1995 and was previously in the hands of four other owners without any dispute.

In a statement, The Foundation commented on the history of the painting:

"The Picasso was part of the collection of Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, a prominent Jewish banker in Berlin. It was exhibited in an art gallery in Buenos Aires in October 1934, on loan from the collector, and is next recorded in the Thannhauser gallery in Lucerne in late August 1935, three months after von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's death in May of that year. The best evidence suggests that the portrait was sold by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's second wife Elsa, who was not Jewish, following his death."