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Steven Spielberg, Norman Rockwell, Martin Luther King Jr. and Us

Norman Rockwell's stolen oil painting Russian Schoolroom was missing for 33 years before it turned up this past February in the private collection of movie mogul Steven Spielberg. It might take another 33 years for the courts to determine the painting's rightful owner.

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In May, Jack Solomon -- who owned the Clayton gallery from which the painting was stolen in 1973 -- filed suit in federal court in Nevada demanding that Spielberg and the FBI return the painting to him. At the same time, Judy Goffman Cutler -- the Rhode Island-based art dealer who sold Spielberg the painting -- filed suit in New York alleging that Solomon defamed her in an RFT article this past spring. Goffman Cutler has since provided Spielberg with another Rockwell painting in exchange for title to Russian Schoolroom.

As we reported earlier this month, Goffman Cutler dropped her defamation suit against Solomon in August. Now those same charges have resurfaced -- this time in a counterclaim her attorneys filed last week in federal court in Nevada. Goffman Cutler charges that Solomon defamed her to the tune of $10 million and cost her the Spielberg account, worth another $5 million. She maintains she's the rightful owner of the painting and argues that the statute of limitations has long since expired with respect to Solomon's right to reclaim the piece. Goffman Cutler is also suing the Art Loss Register, which is assisting Solomon in reclaiming the painting, for $5 million.

In related news, on Sunday the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal published a front-page article outlining the bizarre connection between Russian Schoolroom and a St. Louis-based plot to assassinate civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

That story, too, was first reported in RFT, back in June.

We'll keep you posted as the cases crawl through the courts.

-Chad Garrison

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