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Court rejects church claim for Brandl’s Baroque masterpiece

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Hradec Kralove, East Bohemia, Oct 19 (CTK) – A Czech court has turned down the Catholic Church’s claim for a rare painting by Czech Baroque Master Petr Brandl from a chapel in Smirice to be returned to it within property restitution, and this east Bohemian town thus remains the masterpiece’s owner.

The return of the painting has been demanded by the Roman Catholic parish from the nearby Holohlavy, which also wanted other artifacts from the chapel to be returned to it.

The court verdict from Wednesday is not definitive, the church can still appeal it.

Judge Ivana Dusakova said the evidence submitted by the parish did not prove that its claim was rightful. She called the lawsuit unfounded.

“The painting is not an original piece of the church property. Originally owned by the ruling dynasty, its ownership went to the Czechoslovak state [in 1918], and further to the town [of Smirice] in 1991,” Dusakova said.

The parish will consider appealing the verdict, its defence lawyer Stanislav Hykys said.

“The painting is worth it. We don’t consider the district court’s arguments convincing,” Hykys said.

According to him, the state donated the painting to the church in 1950 and recognised the church ownership of it before as well as after the 1989 fall of the communist regime.

“The Smirice municipality started presenting itself as the owner since 2002, under unclear circumstances,” Hykys said.

Smirice Mayor Lubos Tuzar welcomed the court decision as “facts prevailing over fabrications and the truth over a lie.”

He said the church’s lawsuit was an “outrageous attempted theft” and that the painting was gradually owned by various noble families before being transferred to the state, and that Smirice acted as its owner before 2002.

Brandl’s (1668-1735) altar painting The Adoration of Magi, which dates back to 1727 and is the painter’s masterpiece, has been a piece of national cultural heritage since 2005 and its value is estimated at dozens of millions of crowns.

Apart from this, the church lawsuit unsuccessfully claimed other property from the Smirice chapel, including another painting by Brandl.

The desecrated chapel serves to host events such as concerts and weddings.

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