Nahmad Sued for Nazi-Nabbed Masterpiece

New York City -- Back in February 2011, it was reported that the disgraced international art dealer Helly Nahmad was in possession of a $20m painting by Amedeo Modigliani, Seated Man with a Cane (1918) that had allegedly been stolen by the Nazis from Oscar Stettiner, a prominent Paris gallerist.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network have been following many stories of attempts to restitute Nazi-loot.

In 1939. Stettiner escaped Paris leaving the painting behind. The work was confiscated by Marcel Philippon, who was appointed by the Nazis to sell the Stettiner property.

The Nahmad family is now being sued by relatives of the descendants of Oscar Stettiner the original owner of the masterpiece.

Helly Nahmad who is currently serving a prison sentence of 366 days as punishment for his involvement in a Russian mob linked, high-stakes gambling ring is, needless to say, unavailable for comment.

He was arrested in 2013 as part of an inquiry into illegal gaming promoted as private parties for high net worth individuals including film stars, professional athletes and bank bosses.

Lawyers for the Nahmad family have stated that they never owned "Seated Man with a Cane" by Modigliani.

The billionaire New York art dealing family's head, David Nahmad, recorded in court papers that the painting was owned by the International Art Center (IAC) and that the “Helly Nahmad Gallery have never owned the painting."

However lawyers for Philippe Maestracci -- the descendant of the original owner -- are claiming Modigliani’s Seated Man with a Cane, is owned by an offshore company used by the Nahmads as a cover for their interests in works of art, most of which are kept in an art storage facility, in tax free Geneva.

The Nahmads purchased the work at Christie’s, London, in June 1996 for $3.2m. The painting has been publicly displayed at museums and galleries around the world.

A Christie’s catalogue states as provenance that the masterpiece belonged to Roger Dutilleul a Paris collector who sold it to J. Livengood, in Paris, around 1940 to 1945, however holes in the provenance have now appeared, including the exhibiting of the picture at the Venice Biennial in the 1930.

In November 2008, the work was consigned by the Nahmads to Sotheby's, where it was went unsold in a high profile sale.

Photos above : Left, Seated Man with a Cane (1918). Center, Helly Nahmad. Right, Amedeo Modigliani