Family Urges Swiss Museum to Return Constable Painting Looted by Nazis

John Constable, Dedham from Langham (1813).
John Constable, Dedham from Langham (1813).

Although a plaque below John Constable‘s “Dedham From Langham” (1813) identifies the painting as having been looted by France’s Vichy government, Switzerland’s Musée des Beaux-Arts La Chaux-de-Fonds is refusing to return the painting to Alain Monteagle, the great-nephew of the rightful owner, Anna Jaffé. The museum cites Swiss law, which protects those who buy stolen art in good faith.

Monteagle and his cousin, Alix Cauquelin, have been canvasing the residents of La Chaux-de-Fonds, collecting signatures on a petition that would bring the issue before elected officials thanks to the Swiss popular referendum system. Recently, the two handed out brochures titled “The Looting of War” after showings of The Monuments Men, the based-on-a-true-story George Clooney film about US Army efforts to recover artworks stolen by the Nazis before and during World War Two.

Even if the cousins collect the requisite 2,500 signatures, it is unclear if the petition will be accepted by the town legislature. The family has successfully recovered eight of Jaffé’s other paintings from institutions such as the Louvre and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as from a private collector.


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