L. Meyer v. Bd. of Regents of
the U. of Oklahoma
SHEPHERDESS BRINGING IN SHEEP
• Shepherdess Bringing In
Sheep (“Bergère rentrant
des moutons”) (1886)
• [herein referred to as “La
• An Oil on canvas, by Camille
Pissarro, France, 1830 – 1903
• Aaron M. and Clara
Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000
• [Source: Fred Jones Museum]
THE WEITZENHOFFER BEQUEST
• 33 impressionist paintings
• Important masterpieces such as Monet,
Corot, Renoir, Bonnard, Gauguin
• Some examples:
Sara in a Dark Bonnet Tied under her
Chin, c. 1901, By Mary Cassatt (1844-
1926) Pastel on paper, 22 x 17 1/2 in.
Personnages sur la plage, Trouville
(People on the Beach, Trouville), 1866,
By Eugène Boudin (1824-1898)
Watercolor and graphite on paper, 5 1/2
x 10 in.
Coast Scene, 1893, By Paul Signac 1863-
1935) Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 22 in.
• Following the murder of her entire
family at Auschwitz during World
War II, Léone Meyer was adopted
by Raoul Meyer (1892-1970) and
Yvonne Bader (1897-1971) in
• Upon Yvonne Bader’s death in
1971, Léone Meyer became the
sole heir to both Raoul Meyer and
Yvonne Bader family’s assets,
including their art collection,
which included the Pissarro
Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR)
German soldiers posing with painting taken from
the National Museum of Naples Picture Gallery
The ERR was one of several
Nazi agencies engaged in the
plunder of cultural property in
Nazi-occupied countries during
World War II.
The Meyer family appeared on
special listings drawn up by the
ERR of Jewish collections
targeted for seizure in German-
JEU DE PAUME
• The ERR had a depot at the Louvre Museum and one at a
museum known as “The Jeu de Paume.” The Jeu de Paume
served as the main processing, sorting, and distribution
station for art and cultural object confiscated by the ERR all
• Artwork that was categorized as “undesirable” was set aside
to either be sold to dealers and collectors to obtain foreign
exchange, or to be exchanged for more acceptable works of
art, such as European Old Masters, that could be repatriated
to the Third Reich and incorporated into Nazi collections.
SEIZURE OF La Bergère
• In March 1940, the Meyer family placed their art collection
in a bank safe at Crédit Commercial de France, located in
Mont-de-Marsan, France, for safe keeping.
• On or around February 22, 1941, Nazi forces obtained
access to the bank and seized a collection of artworks
registered under the name of Mrs. Raoul Meyer.
• The seized Meyer collection was sent to Jeu de Paume. La
Bergère was set aside for possible exchange. The painting
ended up in Switzerland between 1944 and 1946.
REGISTRATION OF STOLEN
• Following the liberation of Paris in August 1944 a special
commission, “Commission de Récupération Artistique” (CRA) was
created to document, research the thefts of and restitute cultural
assets. Unsatisfied claims were transferred to “Office des biens et
intérêts privés” (OBIP).
• Raoul Meyer sent an inventory of artwork taken by Nazis to the CRA.
Some artwork was recovered, but not La Bergère. Raoul Meyer sent
an inventory of unsatisfied claims to the OBIP.
• Raoul Meyer’s artwork that was still missing was incorporated into a
report titled “Répertoire des Biens Spoliés en France Durant la
Guerre de 1939-1945.” This report was widely disseminated to
embassies, museums and art galleries throughout Europe and the
• The United States, France, and
Great Britain signed the
“Tripartite Agreement” on July
8, 1946. As past of its obligation
under the Agreement, the U.S.
State Department distributed
registries of art losses, such as
the “Répertoire des Biens Spoliés
en France Durant la Guerre de
1939-1945” to museums,
galleries, colleges and
• La Bergère, Raoul Meyer’s
Pissarro painting was listed in
one of the distributed registries.
“Répertoire des Biens Spoliés en France
Durant la Guerre de 1939-1945” was one of
the registries distributed in by the U.S. State
THE SWISS LITIGATION
• When Raoul Meyer brought a civil case in a Swiss court in 1953,
he had to prove that Christoph Bernoulli acquired the Pissarro
painting with knowledge it was stolen (bad faith). The Swiss
Court held that Raoul Meyer failed to prove Bernoulli acquired
the Pissarro painting in bad faith.
• In the US, a theft cannot convey good title. The original owner
retains title to the stolen object. It does not matter if a subsequent
purchaser did not know the object was previously stolen.
THE CRIVELLI REPORT
• On December 16, 1996, the Federal Council of Switzerland
created the Bergier Commission, also known as the
Independent Commission of Experts (ICE). The ICE’s
mandate was to investigate the volume and fate of assets
moved to Switzerland before, during, and immediately after
World War II.
• On March 3, 1998, Pablo Crivelli, an ICE member,
submitted a report titled “Internal Report-The Issue of
Looted Assets (Works of Art) in the Swiss Federal Archives,
• The Swiss Government’s policies enabled the permissive
importation of looted artwork into Switzerland.
• The Swiss Federal agencies involved in the investigational and
restitution of artwork exercised censorship over information
about looted artwork that illicitly entered Switzerland.
• The private sector failed to properly cooperate with
governmental investigations, which further impeded the
resolution of looted artwork claims.
• Citing Meyer v. Bernoulli, the civil code rule in the Swiss legal
system was almost unassailable in the context of works of art
looted from Nazi-occupied territories and imported into
PISSARRO PAINTING ENTERS U.S.
• In 1956, unbeknownst to Raoul
Meyer or his family, the Pissarro
painting entered the United
Stated through the David Findlay
Galleries, Inc. in New York from
E. J. van Wisselingh & Co., an
art dealer in Amsterdam,
• In late 1956, Clara Weitzenhoffer
acquired the Pissarro painting
from David Findlay Galleries,
• After purchasing La Bergère
from Findlay, Clara
Weitzenhoffer brings it to
• In 2000, Clara
bequests 33 French
including La Bergère to the
University of Oklahoma’s
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of
SEARCH FOR La Bergère
• From 1945 up until their deaths, Léone Meyer’s parents
made numerous attempts to research the whereabouts of all
the missing paintings from the Meyer family art collection.
• Léone Meyer was equally determined to recover the missing
paintings and performed an exceptional level of due
diligence in her search.
EXAMPLES OF LÉONE MEYER’S EFFORTS
• Léone Meyer retrieved documents from the French Government
and numerous listings of artwork owned by private collectors.
• Léone Meyer filed claims with a French special task force
(“Matteoli Commission”, then “CIVS”) and filed a claims letter
with the Art Loss Register in London, the worlds largest private
database of lost and stolen art, antiques, and collectibles.
• Léone Meyer met several times and exchanged letters with
Sandrine and Lionel Pissarro, heirs to the Pissarro Estate and art
• Léone Meyer hired an art expert, trustee of the “Société des Amis
du Louvre” Foundation, to perform an exhaustive research on
the whereabouts of La Bergère. The research produced no lead.
DISCOVERY OF La Bergère
• On March 26, 2012, Léone Meyer’s family discovered a blog
entry on the Holocaust Art Restitution Project website that
indicated that La Bergère’s records at Jeu de Paume matched
the Pissarro painting on display at the University of
Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.
• On December 12, 2012, Léone Meyer, through her attorney,
demanded the return of the Pissarro painting from the
University of Oklahoma. David Boren responded on January
18, 2013 claiming the painting was in the custody of the
University of Oklahoma Foundation, not the University
• A complaint for the return of La Bergère was filed on May 9,
2013 in the Southern District of New York.
• On January 10, 2014, the complaint was amended.
• On February 7, 2014, the University of Oklahoma filed a motion
to dismiss, most notably on the following grounds:
- Lack of jurisdiction of the court
- State Immunity from suits
- Res judicata
- Statute of limitations
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
•Mar. – The Meyer family places their art collection in a bank safe at Crédit Commercial de France
•May – Nazis invade France
•Feb. – Nazi forces seize La Bergère from Crédit Commercial de France and transport it to Jeu de Paume
•Jul. – La Bergère is inventoried at Jeu de Paume and set aside for possible exchange
•Sometime between 1944 and 1946, La Bergère ends up in Switzerland
•Aug. – Paris is liberated from Nazi occupation
•Apr. - Raoul Meyer registers La Bergère as looted artwork
•Christoph Bernoulli acquires La Bergère and sells it to Audré Maus
•Raoul Meyer discovers Maus is in possession of La Bergère in Switzerland
•Bernoulli regains custody and control over the Pissarro painting from Maus
TIMELINE OF EVENTS CONT.
•Raoul Meyer files a lawsuit against Bernoulli in Switzerland
•The Swiss Court holds Raoul Meyer failed to prove Bernoulli’s bad faith in acquiring La Bergère
•La Bergère is exhibited at David Findlay Galleries, Inc. in New York
•Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer purchase La Bergère from David Findlay Galleries, Inc.
•Clara Weitzenhoffer’s estate bequests La Bergère to University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum
•Mar. – Dr. Annette Schlagenhauff researches La Bergère, discovers documents regarding Bernoulli,
and provides the documents to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
•Mar. – Léone Meyer’s family discovers the location of La Bergère
•Dec. – Léone Meyer demands the return of La Bergère from the University of Oklahoma
•Jan. – David Boren claims La Bergère is owned by the University of Oklahoma Foundation, not the University
•May – Léone Meyer files her complaint