Published: June 19, 2007
(AP) †Waiter, make mine a Balthus.
In 1958, the painter entrusted a still life to his sculptor friend Alberto Giacometti, asking him to give it to a waiter at a Paris cafe that they both frequented. But Giacometti kept the now valuable painting for himself.
On Tuesday, a Paris appeal court ordered the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation to return the painting to Balthus’s heirs.
It also asked the heirs to contact the waiter’s daughter and son to see if they wanted the painting “Coffee Pot With Fruit.” It has an estimated value of $534/800,000.
The two artists shared a studio at the end of the 1950s and were patrons of a cafe in southern Paris. Before leaving on a visit to Italy, Balthus entrusted the painting to Giacometti to give to the waiter.
In 1993, Balthus learned that the painting formed part of the estate of Giacometti, who died in 1996. Three years before his death in 2001, Balthus asked for the painting back. The waiter’s daughter wrote to Balthus to say that her father had spoken to her about the painting. She enclosed photos of her father. Balthus recognized him as the waiter to whom he had promised the painting.
A long legal battle ensued with the managers of Giacometti’s estate. Balthus’s heirs lost the case the first time around in 2005.
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