Van Gogh Painting Seized by Bolsheviks Will Stay at Yale

The court cited the "act of state" doctrine in its decision.

Vincent van Gogh, Le café de nuit (The Night Café) (1888). Photo: courtesy Yale University Art Gallery.
Vincent van Gogh, Le café de nuit (The Night Café) (1888). Photo: courtesy Yale University Art Gallery.

A Connecticut court has ruled that Vincent van Gogh‘s The Night Cafe (1888) will stay at Yale University, rejecting the claims of the heir of the original owner, Russian industrialist Ivan Morozov, reports the Art Newspaper.

In 1918, the Bolsheviks took power and proceeded to confiscate Morozov’s art collection. In 1933, The Night Cafe was sold to American collector Stephen Clark, who donated it to Yale in 1961. Morozov’s great-grandson and heir, Pierre Konowaloff, sued the university for the return of the painting, claiming that the Russian’s government had acted illegally in seizing the work.

The court sided in favor of Yale, citing a “act of state” doctrine which prevents US courts from examining the legality of actions undertaken by a recognized foreign government within its borders.

The painting, valued at $120 million (according to the Christian Science Monitor), will remain on display at the Yale University Art Gallery.

Konowaloff lost a previous case on the same grounds in 2011, when he attempted to recover Paul Cézanne’s Portrait of Madame Cezanne (1891) from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (see report from the New York Observer).


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