Tsarist Art Heirs Ask for Payout

LONDON -- The heirs of the greatest tsarist-era art collectors, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, have called for compensation from the Russian government to redress the 1918 confiscation of their ancestors' artworks.

Their demand comes before Saturday's opening of "From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925 From Moscow and St. Petersburg" at London's Royal Academy. The show features more than 120 works, including pieces by Gauguin, Kandinsky and Van Gogh. Of the paintings, 23 were once in the Shchukin collection and 13 were owned by Morozov.

French citizens Andre-Marc Delocque-Fourcaud, Shchukin's grandson, and Pierre Konowaloff, Morozov's great-grandson, said the British and Russian exhibition organizers had the "possibility to earn enormous sums of money," and that the heirs are morally entitled to a portion of the proceeds.

"From Russia" is sponsored by Germany's E.On. Delocque-Fourcaud and Konowaloff said the Russian government must respect "the moral and material rights of the collectors and their families," and called for "an agreement that reasonably compensates and pays a percentage of the material benefits that accrue from exploitation of the works.

"The heirs of the Russian collectors do not ask for the restitution of the paintings confiscated by Lenin," the heirs said. "We have accepted and we agree that our paintings are housed in great Russian museums."