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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 13:19 GMT
Greeks withdraw El Greco painting
The National Gallery
The National Gallery is holding an El Greco exhibition in February
A Greek museum has denied the National Gallery in London the loan of an El Greco painting because it is afraid the painting may be confiscated.

The painting, a landscape of Mount Sinai painted in about 1570, is the subject of a long-running legal battle.

A Swiss man, Joram Deutsch, said he is the rightful owner of the painting, which he said was stolen by the Nazis.

He added he is the son of the Hungarian owner's lawyer and is entitled to claim the painting.

The artwork is currently owned by the Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion. They have owned the painting - which they bought for 480,000 - since 1990.

Mr Deutsch tried to obtain it through a court order when it was shown at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The case was dismissed by a judge on technical grounds last week.


The director of the Historical Museum of Crete, Alexis Kalokairinos, told BBC News Online the museum did not want to risk another court case, even though it was sure Mr Deutsch did not have the right to the painting.

"I'm sorry about the decision not to send the painting to the National Gallery," Mr Kalokairinos said.

He said the Metropolitan Museum had found that the painting had never been looted by the Nazis during World War II.

He said the museum was unconvinced by Mr Deutsch's claim. "What we also need to know is what is the interest Mr Deutsch has in this case," the director said.

He said the painting had been exhibited many times outside Greece since 1990. He said the museum had investigated its history and was convinced it had adhered to international law.

The National Gallery's exhibition begins on 11 February.

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