The judge sides with DIA; Van Gogh’s painting is elusive

Detroit – A federal judge in Detroit on Friday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to seize a painting by Vincent van Gogh allegedly stolen from the Detroit Institute of Arts and give the work to its alleged owner in Brazil.

U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh ruled the DIA did not have to hand over ‘Liseuse De Romans’, also known as ‘The Novel Reader’ or ‘The Reading Lady’, which is temporarily on display in an exhibit which ends on Sunday. The judge ruled that the artwork was protected by federal law granting immunity to foreign artwork exhibited in the United States.

DIA attorneys argued that the artwork could not be touched because it is protected by a federal law called the Immunity from Seizure Act granting immunity to foreign artwork exhibited in the United States.

“The painting is exempt from seizure under the statute, which prohibits the court from issuing an injunction or making any other order that would deprive the defendant of custody or control of the painting,” Steeh wrote in an 11-page decision. “Because the court cannot grant the ultimate relief requested by the plaintiff, the lawsuit will be dismissed.”

Visitors file past Van Gogh's painting

The alleged owner, Brazilian art collector Gustavo Soter and his art brokerage firm, Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC, said the painting was stolen and had been missing for almost six years until it was recently discovered on display at the DIA as part of the museum’s “Van Gogh Exhibition in America”.

Steeh had nine days earlier ordered that the painting not be removed or hidden, and the DIA posted a security guard near Van Gogh’s work in recent days.

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