Nazis, ‘Cats’ Conspire Against Mendelssohn, Picasso

20061108picasso.jpg

Let's say your parents force you to give away your puppy. A month later, you walk past a pet store and see Fido — and he's unmistakably yours — in the window, for sale. It's not a good feeling, and, ultimately, there's not much you can do. Julius H. Schoeps is experiencing something similar, except his puppy is a Picasso. As auction season gets started, a Manhattan judge yesterday dismissed a suit in which Schoeps tried to stop Christie's from selling The Absinthe Drinker; he says his great-uncle was forced to sell the work under duress because of Nazi persecution. The claim didn't fly, Christie's wanted to know why the heir waited 70 years to speak up, and the judge ultimately tossed the lawsuit on a technicality. The painting will be auctioned today, and it's projected to fetch between $40 and $60 million. But what makes this all much more interesting is the cast of characters. The painting's current owner is Andrew Lloyd Webber, who bought it through his charitable foundation in 1995. And Schoeps is a descendant of Felix Mendelssohn. So not only are judges, painters, and Nazis involved, but the whole business also has the strange auxiliary whiff of a Broadway tunesmith thumbing his nose at the phantom of a classical composer. It's enough to put anyone in a blue period.

Judge Refuses to Halt Auction of a Picasso [NYT]
Houses on Fire [NYM]