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Rights relinquished

January 9, 2010

The heirs of a late German-Jewish banker have renounced all rights to a painting by Pablo Picasso, allowing a foundation set up by British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber to keep the piece.

Picasso exhibit
The banker owned three of Picasso's worksImage: DW

The descendants of Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation reached an out-of-court settlement with regard to the Picasso painting "The Absinthe Drinker," according to John Byrne, lawyer for the heirs of the Mendelssohn-Bartholdy family.

Under the terms of the settlement, Byrne was not at liberty to discuss the terms of the deal.

Last year, the Mendelssohn-Bartholdy heirs reached settlements with the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, both in New York, to keep two other Picasso works that had belonged to their ancestor.

The family argued that Mendelssohn-Bartholdy sold the paintings under duress during the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

Entangled with history

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy reportedly sent his three Picassos to Switzerland for safekeeping shortly after the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933. Soon thereafter, he ordered that they be sold.

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy died in 1935.

His valuable paintings eventually ended up in the Guggenhim, MoMA and the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, but one of his heirs, Julius Schoeps, a grandson of one of von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's sisters, sued in a bid to reclaim them.

"The Absinthe Drinker," which was painted by Picasso in 1903, is worth around 41 million euros ($60 million).

Editor: Toma Tasovac