BINDING ADVICE ON RESTITUTION OF TOOROP PAINTING
Under the first binding advice issued by the Restitutions Committee, which is responsible for providing advice concerning claims on looted works of art, Rotterdam Municipal Council is required to return the painting Thames at London by Jan Toorop to the heirs of its former owner, upon payment of €30,397.50.
The advice was given in relation to a dispute about the ownership of Thames at London between the grandchildren of the Jewish owner who sold the painting in 1937 and Rotterdam Municipal Council, the painting’s current owner. The central issue in the dispute was whether or not the former owner relinquished possession of the painting involuntarily due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. The Restitutions Committee decided that this was the case.
Thames at London was the property of the Jewish businessman and art collector Ernst Flersheim from Frankfurt am Main. From 1933 onwards, restrictive anti-Jewish measures imposed by the Nazis in Germany had an ever increasing effect on his family, which resulted in their fleeing the country. During his flight in March 1937, Flersheim sold the Toorop to a Dutch art dealer for NLG 3,500, after which it ended up in Museum Boymans in Rotterdam. The Committee considers it likely that Flersheim intended to use the profits from the sale to aid his family’s flight. Flersheim and his wife were deported from the Netherlands in 1943 and died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944.
Under the given circumstances, the Committee ruled that the loss of possession was involuntary as a result of circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. However, the Committee was also of the opinion that neither Museum Boymans nor Rotterdam Municipal Council was negligible with respect to the purchase of the painting in 1937. Given Flersheim’s involuntary loss of possession, the significance of restitution to his grandchildren and their offer to pay Rotterdam Municipal Council the indexed purchase price, the Committee concluded that the Toorop should be returned to them upon payment of €30,397.50, which is the amount Flersheim received for the painting in 1937 (NLG 3,500), indexed according to the general price index figure.
The Restitutions Committee
Since January 2002, the Restitutions Committee has provided recommendations to the Minister for Education, Culture and Science regarding 56 claims to items of cultural value in the possession of the national government. In addition, the Committee can also issue binding advice in accordance with Section 2 subsection 2 of the Decree establishing the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications concerning disputes between two parties over an item of cultural value that is not in the possession of the national government. Such advice is given on the basis of what is ‘reasonable and fair.’ This is the first time that such binding advice has been given.
For more information, please contact Evelien Campfens, secretary/rapporteur of the Restitutions Committee on +31(0)70 376 59 92.