The Court of Appeal of Paris ordered on Wednesday 30 September the Ministry of Culture and the City of Marseille to return three paintings by André Derain to the family of art dealer and collector René Gimpel.

The two paintings belonging to the national collections, Paysage à Cassis (or Vue de Cassis) and La Chapelle-sous-Crécy, were donated to the State in 1976 by Pierre and Denise Lévy, who had acquired them in the 1950s; they were assigned to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Troyes. These works, as well as Pinède, Cassis acquired by the City of Marseille in 1987, had been bought by René Gimpel in 1921. The latter, Jewish and resistant, was deported in 1944; he died in deportation in 1945 in Neuengamme.

The family of René Gimpel requested the restitution of these works, considering that he had been robbed during the Occupation. The research carried out so far has not been able to provide any conclusive evidence on the course of the works nor the proof of the spoliation, so the Ministry of Culture and the City of Marseilles relied on the wisdom of the judge, seized by the rights holders of René Gimpel. At first instance, the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris had rejected the latter, for lack of information on the course of the works. When the family appealed, the Ministry of Culture again relied on the wisdom of the judge. The Ministry of Culture takes note today of the decision of the Court of Appeal, which it will apply as soon as possible.

The complexity of this dossier reminds us of the importance of researching the provenance of cultural objects present in public collections that may have been the object of spoliation during the Nazi period. In 2019, the Ministry of Culture set up a mission dedicated to this research work, in order to amplify the efforts carried out for several years. This work, carried out in conjunction with the museums of France and the libraries, must make it possible to identify the stolen works and then to find the legitimate owners or their rights holders in order to return them the works.