The National Gallery of Art in Washington is to return a drawing by Pablo Picasso to the heirs of a German- Jewish banker who was forced to sell it at a loss in 1934 for fear the Nazis would confiscate his estate.
Paul von Mendelssohn- Bartholdy, a descendant of composer Felix Mendelssohn, sold the work, titled Head of a Woman, along with at least 15 other significant artworks.
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy died the following year and in 1938 his family bank, Bank Mendelssohn & Co, which was founded in 1795, was seized by the Nazis and transferred to non-Jewish ownership. Picasso’s Head of a Woman was bought by art dealer Justin Thannhauser and the National Gallery of Art acquired it through a donation in 2001.
The museum said it was settling with Mendelssohn- Bartholdy’s heirs “to avoid the heavy toll of litigation”, not because it agreed that their claims were valid.
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s heirs reached settlements in 2009 with the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York over two other Picassos Mendelssohn-Bartholdy sold to Thannhauser.