RESTITUTIONS COMMITTEE ISSUES THREE RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING CLAIMS TO LOOTED ART
The Restitutions Committee has advised the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science on three claims to works of art from the Dutch National Art Collection. The Committee recommends the restitution of two of the three claimed works of art to the former owners’ heirs. The State Secretary has adopted the recommendations.
In the first case, the Committee concludes that Jewish banker and art collector Fritz Gutmann was the original owner of a 15th-century limewood Pietà (NK 688). Faced with the threatening international situation in 1939, Gutmann gave this sculpture to an art dealership in Paris for safekeeping. There, the object was seized by the Germans, after which it became part of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring’s art collection. In May 1945, American troops found the sculpture in a train carriage full of works of art that Göring had left behind in a tunnel near the Luftwaffe’s headquarters in the little Bavarian town of Berchtesgaden (see photograph). Afterwards, the Pietà was returned to the Netherlands, where it has been part of the National Art Collection for decades. The sculpture was on loan to Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. In its recommendation of 11 April 2011, the Committee concluded that Gutmann lost possession of the sculpture involuntarily as a direct consequence of the Nazi regime. The Committee advises the State Secretary to return the Pietà to the heirs of Fritz Gutmann.
The second case concerns the 19th-century bronze statue Steenhouwer (Stonemason) by C.E. Meunier (NK 414). The investigation has shown that, during the war, this statue was sold to one of three Amsterdam art dealerships: Buffa, Morpurgo or Mogrobi. This led family members of the two Jewish art dealers Morpurgo and Mogrobi to each submit a claim, both of which the Committee investigated. In its recommendation of 13 April 2011, the Committee concludes that the Meunier statue was not part of the trading stock of either of these two art dealerships during the war and advises the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science to reject both claims.
The Committee’s third recommendation concerns a bronze statue Hercules, which was claimed by the heirs of Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer, a German-Jewish couple who worked in the art trade. The Oppenheimers were the sole shareholders in the German Margraf group, which consisted of various renowned art dealerships. In its recommendation, the Committee explains that, shortly after the start of the Nazi regime in 1933, the Nazi authorities began targeting the Margraf group, which they considered an exponent of the ‘international Jewish jewellery and art trade’. A close acquaintance of Hermann Göring was appointed liquidator of the company and the subsidiaries' stocks were sold at Nazi-enforced sales under execution. The Hercules statue went under the hammer at one of these auctions in 1935. Following a donation, the statue has been part of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam collection since 1938 and was on loan to the Muiderslot for years. The Restitutions Committee is of the opinion that, in 1935, Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer lost the statue Hercules involuntarily as a consequence of the persecution measures the Nazi regime took against them. It therefore advises the State Secretary to return the statue to the Oppenheimer heirs.
The Restitutions Committee
Since January 2002, the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War has issued 100 recommendations and 125 claims were presented to it. The Committee is chaired by Willibrord Davids.
For more information, please contact Evelien Campfens (secretary/rapporteur) on +31 (0)70 376 59 92.