Dispute Over Spitball-Covered Signac Settled


A Paris court has sided with the community of Montreuil in a legal dispute brought by the heirs of pointillist painter Paul Signac, who allege that his work “Au temps d’harmonie” (1890, pictured) risks serious damage from frequent spitballing attacks in its current location, Montreuil city hall, where it has hung since 1938, Le Monde reports. The post-impressionist artist’s great-granddaughter, Charlotte Liebert Hellman, launched a case last year to have the work re-located to the Musée d’Orsay, where it could be restored and protected from future spitball attacks.

Hellman’s case revolved in part around the terms of the Montreuil municipality’s claims to the painting. Though it was promised to a public art collection in Brussels during the artist’s lifetime, Signac’s widow Berthe Signac either loaned it or gifted it — this disagreement over which is at the crux of the legal dispute — to Montreuil.

“Do you think a group that was simply borrowing a painting would in turn loan it to major institutions, as Montreuil has done?” asked an attorney for the mayor of Montreuil, Dominique Voynet. “We have even had the work restored on multiple occasions. Do you know of any group that would take such a risk with a treasured artwork that it was just borrowing?”

Hellman plans to appeal the court’s ruling that Montreuil is the rightful owner of the painting.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image via @DominiqueVoynet/Twitter.)