Getty Museum Keeps Medieval Bible Pages in Armenian Art Restitution Case

On Oct. 27, 2015, Munger, Tolles & Olson settled and obtained dismissal of a lawsuit against the J. Paul Getty Trust in a long-running lawsuit brought by the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America relating to the ownership of eight pages from a medieval Armenian gospel manuscript dating back to 1256. Acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum from a private collector in 1994, the illustrated pages from the Zeyt’un Gospels are the earliest signed work of Armenian illuminator and scribe T’oros Roslin.

In its 2010 lawsuit, the church claimed that the pages were separated from the rest of the book in the Armenian genocide during World War I. The Getty contended that the pages had been rescued by an Armenian family and protected and conserved by the Getty for decades. After long-running litigation, the parties reached a settlement on Sept. 21, 2015 that recognized the church’s historical ownership of the pages. The church, in turn, agreed to donate the pages to the Getty in order to ensure their preservation and continue their exhibition.

“This is a creative and mutually beneficial solution that recognizes the importance of preserving such works for devotion, study, and enjoyment, while also acknowledging the tragic circumstances under which the pages were removed from the Zeyt’un Gospels,” said Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum, in a press release.

The Getty legal team included Luis Li, Fred A. Rowley, Jr., Bethany W. Kristovich, Matthew A. Macdonald, Amelia L. B. Sargent, Victoria A. Degtyareva, Hannah E. Shearer, Joshua Patashnik, Sara N. Taylor and Eric P. Tuttle.