Court Forfeits Cristo Portacroce After Italy Does Not File A Claim

Thursday, January 5, 2012
The forfeited Cristo Portacroce.
Courtesy ICE
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida has ordered the forfeiture of the painting, the Cristo Portacroce Trascinato Da Un Manigoldo.  The court issued the default judgment once the previous possessors, Italy and its Brera Art Gallery, failed to make a claim for the return of the artwork.

The court's ruling was brief:  "Upon Application of the Plaintiff(s) in the above styled cause and having examined the records and there appearing to be no responsive pleadings filed by the defendant(s), default is hereby entered against the Italian Republic, Ministry of Culture, and the Pinacoteca di Brera, on January 3, 2012."

The painting will likely be handed over to the heirs of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe, who filed a claim on December 14, 2011 arguing that they were the lawful owners.  Prosecutors submitted information to the court that the painting was taken from the family by the Nazis during World War II.  Click here for details.

Federal officials seized the Cristo Portacroce in November 2011, which the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Florida had on loan.  See here for background.

Court papers filed by government lawyers show that the Italian's were aware that the painting's ownership was in dispute.  But the records do not explain why the Italy-Brogan loan agreement did not contemplate legal protection from seizure under the federal law known as Immunity from Seizure Under Judicial Process of Cultural Objects Imported for Temporary Exhibition or Display.