Press release RC 3.93

BINDING ADVICE CONCERNING THE DISPUTE OVER PAINTING BY JAN STEEN 

The Hague Municipal Council is selling its share in the painting The Marriage of Tobias and Sarah by Jan Steen to Mrs Von Saher-Langenbein. The Municipal Council and Mrs Von Saher, the daughter-in-law of the renowned art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, no longer wished to share ownership of the painting and asked the Restitutions Committee for binding advice. In the course of the procedure, the parties reached an agreement with regard to the sale. In accordance with the wishes of the parties, the Restitutions Committee laid down the sale in its binding advice.  

The Marriage of Tobias and Sarah is currently housed in Museum Bredius in The Hague, and was co-owned as a result of restoration work that took place in 1996 when two previously separate parts were re-united. Prior to the work, one part, Archangel Raphael, belonged to the Municipal Council, while the other part, The Prayer of Tobias and Sarah, belonged to the State of the Netherlands. The State and the Municipal Council both agreed to the unification of the parts and agreed on an ownership ratio of 76 : 24, with 76% belonging to the State and 24% to the Municipal Council. These percentages were based on the estimated value of the two parts.  

In 2006, after an application for restitution (NK 2726, RC 1.15 Goudstikker), the State transferred its share in the painting to Mrs Von Saher. Von Saher and the Municipal Council no longer wished to share ownership of the work but were not willing to compromise the unification of the painting. Due to their inability to find a solution to their dispute, they requested that the Restitutions Committee issue binding advice. The Committee’s preferred option – which would see the Municipal Council purchase Von Saher’s share – proved impossible when the Council failed to raise the necessary funds. The Restitutions Committee’s binding advice is now that the Municipal Council is obligated to sell its share in the painting to Von Saher, and that Von Saher – in addition to the purchase price – is obligated to pay a proportional part of the restoration costs to the Municipal Council.  

The binding advice (RC 3.93) also states that the Municipal Council must submit a request to the District Court of The Hague for the release from a remaining testamentary obligation on the painting. Only after this has been granted can the painting be sold by the Municipal Council, and it will then transfer its ownership share to Mrs Von Saher in return for payment of EUR 622,478.54. This transaction will see Von Saher take full ownership of the painting. 

The Restitutions Committee
Since January 2002, the Restitutions Committee has provided recommendations to the Minister for Education, Culture and Science regarding claims to items of cultural value in the possession of the national government. In addition, the Committee can also issue binding advice concerning disputes between two parties over an item of cultural value that is not in the possession of the national government. The assessment framework for such binding advice is reasonableness and fairness. 

More information
For more information, please contact Evelien Campfens, secretary/rapporteur of the Restitutions Committee on +31 (0)70 376 59 92.