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Webber's art-show stopper

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A Manhattan federal judge yesterday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the auction tomorrow of a painting owned by famed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber that had been expected to fetch him up to $60 million.

The judge's show-stopping ruling came after a last-minute lawsuit filed by the painting's former owner, who claimed the Nazis had forced him to sell it in 1935.

Julius Schoeps, an heir to wealthy Berlin banker Paul von Mendelsshon-Bartholdy, is suing The Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation, which has owned the Picasso titled "Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto," since 1995.

Schoeps has accused the foundation and Christie's auction house of doing shoddy research because of over-eagerness to sell the work and is demanding the return of the painting.

Arguments in the case will be heard today.

Webber purchased the Picasso for $29.1 million.

The painting was supposed to go on the auction block tomorrow during star-studded art auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's.

Copyright 2006 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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