NEW YORK — A 93-year-old German widow has lost a bid to restore her claim to a painting by Impressionist Claude Monet stolen after World War II because, a court ruled, she had not tried hard enough to recover it.
The U.S. Court of Appeals, reversing a lower court ruling, said Gerda Dorothea De Weerth had not used "reasonable diligence" in trying to secure Monet's "Champs de Ble a Vetheuil," an oil landscape valued at $500,000.
The court said De Weerth, of Bad-Godesberg, West Germany, had lost her claim by failing to "conduct any search for 24 years from 1957 to 1981," a period during which "there were several published references to it in the art world."
De Weerth sued the present owner, Edith Baldinger, in 1983. Baldinger purchased the Impressionistic landscape at a New York gallery in 1957 for $30,900.
The court concluded that it would be "unjust" to require Baldinger, a "good-faith purchaser" who has owned the painting for 30 years, to defend the purchase.
De Weerth inherited the Monet from her father in 1922. In August, 1943, she sent the painting for safekeeping to a sister who lived in a castle in Oberbalzheim, in southern Germany.
At the war's end in 1945, American soldiers who lived in the castle left and the painting was discovered to be missing.