A painting by artist Camille Pissarro which currently hangs in a Madrid Gallery is the subject of an American lawsuit which claims that the painting was stolen by the Nazis back in 1939.

The ninth circuit Court in California has ruled that Spain cannot claim that they are immune from the lawsuit even though there is no suggestion that the Spanish government or army were involved in the theft.

The California court ruled that although normally foreign governments are immune from private lawsuits they felt that it was necessary that there should be an exception in the recovery of this property even though there is no suggestion that Spain was responsible for its theft.

This means Spain will not be able to evoke the American Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act as a way of avoiding the potential recovery of the painting which hangs with the rest of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid.

According to the lawsuit brought by a Mr Cassirer, the painting belonged to his grandmother and was stolen by the Nazis and then went through a series of sales until a 1988 auction in which Spain paid $50 million for the painting.