A final update on the work by Camille Pissarro – La Bergere Rentrant des Moutons. Leone-Noelle Meyer, a Holocaust survivor herself, has renounced her rights to the artwork in a decades-long legal struggle.
Meyer lost multiple family members at Auschwitz, including her mother. At just seven years old, she was adopted before her new family fled Paris. Her adoptive parents, Raoul and Yvonne Meyer, hid their artwork, which included the Pissarro, as well as a Picasso and Renoir. With the Nazi occupation of Paris, the works were seized and ended up in the hands of a Swiss dealer.
Eventually, the work was “purchased in good faith” through a New York gallery before being donated to the University of Oklahoma. Supposedly, Meyer signed an agreement five years ago which would see the work rotate between Paris’ Musee d’Orsay and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Oklahoma. Still, she continued fighting for ownership, saying she entered into the agreement under duress.
With French courts ruling that her contract supercedes French law requiring restitution of Nazi-looted art, along with further legal action being threatened by the University of Oklahoma, Meyer has given up her fight. Sure, it’s nice that the University will uphold their end of the agreement and continue rotating the work every three years and displaying a plaque sharing the Meyer family story. But, the University further stated that it was committed to identifying and transferring ownership to a French Public Institution. I assume so they get some financial benefit… seems that they don’t actually care about holding onto the work; they just don’t want to give it up for nothing. Sad to see.