• gerard van weyenbergh

Wildenstein saga, part 2

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Daniel Wildenstein and his sons had sued Feliciano. Still, in June 1999, the Paris civil court dismissed them, considering that Georges Wildenstein had had direct and indirect relations with the German authorities during the German occupation.

This judgment was a real blow to the head of Daniel, and severely damaged the reputation of the Wildenstein. He tried until his death to defend the memory of his father. Roger Dequoy, his right-hand man, had taken over the activities of his gallery throughout the war, benefiting from the protection of dealer Karl Haberstock, Hitler's close advisor.

Nevertheless, the court had indicated in its judgment that Georges Wildenstein. However, a victim of the spoliations of the occupier, he had indeed given a mandate to Dequoy, granting him full powers to take care of his collection and sell anything. He asked Dequoy to do whatever is necessary to help Germans discover important collections and works of art in France.

Daniel, for his part, admitted that his father had met Haberstock with Dequoy in Aix-en-Provence at the end of 1940 but had formally denied signing any agreement. The fact remained that Georges Wildenstein had recognized after the war that the German merchant had allowed him to save many paintings in his collection and that he paid tribute to the role of Dequoy, " his trusted agent" during the German occupation.

Daniel Wildenstein, who for nearly 35 years had been considered untouchable, was undermined by this judgment confirmed on appeal in 2000. It tainted the honor of the family by raising the suspicion that his father had played a double game during the German occupation.

Previously, everything had been for the best in the best of all possible worlds. His business was flourishing, and his relationship with his wife Sylvia seemed harmonious, which was not the case with the relationship she had with her step-sons Alec and Guy.

In the meantime, Daniel forgot to favor his wife Sylvia a little better by preparing his will. After making arrangements to protect his huge collection of works of art a few days after his death, she was surprised to learn that her husband's fortune was only 43 million euros. She was told that it was best for her to give up her share of the inheritance since it was completely ruined.

Showing themselves magnanimous in their own way, the Wildenstein heirs offered their mother-in-law an apartment of 5000 sqft overlooking the Bois de Boulogne and an annual pension of 400,000 euros.

Still shaken by Daniel's disappearance, Sylvia accepted their offer before to discover a few months later that her husband will only mention a few paintings in her possession when she had seen hundreds of them in the private mansion in the rue de la Boétie or in the Wildenstein galleries in England and the United States, not to mention those hung on the walls of their Parisian apartment and that of New York, which is abundantly furnished. And then, what had become of Daniel's racehorses, foreign estates, and assets?

Considering herself cheated by her sons-in-law, Sylvia Roth decided to take them to court to denounce them for tax concealment by pointing out that thousands of paintings were sheltered from trusts established in tax havens. A long series of lawsuits followed, which allowed the widow to assert her rights gradually.

Very ill, she did not give up continue her long legal fight slowed down by multiple appeals filed by the opposing party before succumbing to cancer in November 2010. Her death did not prevent Claude Dumont-Beghi, her lawyer, from announcing that the action of his client would not be extinct, however.

After years of court sessions, justice got underway in the fall of 2010 with investigations at Guy Wildenstein's lawyer and in the family mansion, 57 rue de la Boétie.

Investigators left in January 2011 with around thirty suspect works. In particular, a painting by Berthe Morisot, which had disappeared from the Rouart estate, the inventory of which had been carried out by Daniel Wildenstein, on delegation from his son Guy, appointed as executor at the same time as Olivier Daulte, the son of François Daulte, art historian.

After the latter's death, twenty-four paintings that had disappeared from the Rouart estate were found in 1993 in a Daulte family safe in Switzerland where they had been illegally sent from France. At that time, Daniel Wildenstein had replied benevolently that everyone could be wrong by adding, according to the weekly "Paris-Match" , that it had even happened to the Queen of England. She kept, in her attic of the castle of Balmoral works belonging to the Soviet Union!

Adrian Darmon, www.Artcult.com,