8 Jan 2010

Legal battle over Picasso painting settled

10:07 pm on 8 January 2010

A legal battle over a Picasso painting that's worth about $75 million has finally been settled.

The painting, Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, was put up for auction by British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's art foundation more than three years ago.

But it was suddenly withdrawn when a German man, Professor Julius Schoeps, claimed that the Nazis had forced his great-uncle to sell it during the 1930s.

A judge stopped the auction after Professor Schoeps, an heir to Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, claimed that his ancestor had had to sell the work cheaply after being forced to flee his mansion.

At the time, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation said the claims were "utterly spurious".

All claims of title relinquished

In a statement on Thursday, Mr von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's heirs announced they had reached a settlement agreement with the trustees of the foundation, relinquishing all claims of title to the painting. The foundation said it was "pleased" by the announcement.

It is not known what will happen to the painting now. The foundation had planned to donate the money raised from the auction to a variety of arts charities.

Lord Lloyd-Webber bought the work in 1995 for $37 million. At the time he said it was "mesmeric".