The great-grandson of collector Ivan Morozov, from whom Van Gogh’s ‘Night Cafe’ was stolen by the Bolshevik government after the 1917 revolution, has filed suit against Yale claiming rightful ownership.
So whose is it? That turns on the legitimacy of the Bolshevik government and its acts: a matter for international lawyers. Though, I might add, if the world’s museums were to disgorge all the works that have in the past been stolen by armies or expropriated by revolutionary regimes there are going to be an awful lot of gaps. The National Gallery in London and the Hermitage both have works looted by Napoleonic troops; the Louvre and Prado are full of works from the collection of Charles I, sold off by Cromwell’s government. And so on, and on.
Yale Fight for Van Gogh’s ‘Night Cafe’ May Open More Battles Martin Gayford Bloomberg 6/30/09