UPDATE: Pierre Ciric, Leone Meyer's attorney, released a statement Friday afternoon, saying OU's filing "has no legal basis" and "is certainly not reflective of a constructive good faith negotiation to resolve the case." Read the full statement below:
"Today’s filing by OU to dismiss the lawsuit by Leone Meyer seeking the restitution of La Bergère has no legal basis.
Moreover, it is certainly not reflective of a constructive good faith negotiation to resolve the case. Over the past few months, we have made several constructive proposals to OU.
In fact, we would challenge the press to ask OU why they filed a motion to dismiss while claiming it is engaged in constructive discussions.
Furthermore, Leone Meyer and her attorneys are the only parties who can legally negotiate a binding resolution to this case. We are surprised to hear from OU that, apparently, other parties are involved. If so, they are not in the lawsuit, so any discussions with other parties to the resolution of this matter are irrelevant."
Read the original story below:
The painting, "Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep," was seized by Nazi forces from Crédit Commercial de France, a French bank, in 1941. The family of Leone Meyer, the woman suing the university over the painting's ownership, placed its art collection, including "Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep," in the bank in 1940. The Meyer family acquired the painting prior to World War II.
The painting was transported to Jeu de Paume, a French museum, after Nazi forces seized it from Crédit Commercial. It was then found in Switzerland sometime between 1944 and 1946, and it is unclear how the painting arrived there.
In 1956, the painting arrived at David Findlay Galleries Inc. in New York, and in February 1956, Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer, the parents of OU regent Max Weitzenhoffer, purchased it from the galleries. Clara Weitzenhoffer's estate then bequeathed the painting to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in 2000.
The Meyer family discovered the painting's whereabouts in Fred Jones Jr. Museum in 2012. Leone Meyer filed a formal complaint against OU in 2013.
The university has consistently defended the Weitzenhoffer family's purchase of the painting. In a statement on May 14, 2015, it said the Weitzenhoffer family "undisputedly purchased the painting in good faith from a reputable art dealer."
Oklahoma state representative Paul Wesselhöft, R-Moore, called for OU to inspect the back of "Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep" in August 2015. He wanted to see if the painting had a Nazi Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) stamp on the back of it.
“There are two equally intriguing possibilities here,” Wesselhöft said in a press release. “Either the Nazi ERR stamp is on the back of the painting or it is not. In either case, there appears to be skullduggery involved."
The stamp would have served as proof that the university should have known the painting was stolen by Nazis, Wesselhöft said. The absence of a stamp would have indicated that some party committed a federal crime: OU, the Weitzenhoffer family or David Findlay Galleries Inc., he said.
NewsOK reported on Aug. 18, 2015 that the university said "Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep" lacks the Nazi ERR stamp. Wesselhöft said the disappearance of the stamp means that somebody wanted to obscure the fact that Nazis stole it.
OU press secretary Corbin Wallace was not immediately available for comment. A statement from the university said that as the suit continues, "(OU) and the (OU) Foundation remain committed to working with Ms. Meyer and others to seek a resolution that meets the needs of all involved."