Venus and Adonis with Amor by J.A. Uytewael
Advice concerning the applications for restitution of the painting Venus and Adonis and Amor by J.A. Uytewael (NK 3424)
In letters dated 23 December 2004 and 25 March 2005, the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science asked the Restitutions Committee for advice on the decision to be taken concerning the applications for restitution of the painting NK 3424, Venus and Adonis and Amor by J.A. Uytewael from the Dutch National Art Collection.
The two requests for advice from the State Secretary are based on two applications for restitution of the painting NK 3424. On 11 November 2004, G. (referred to below as 'the first applicant') submitted an application for restitution, which, on 1 March 2005, was followed by an application for restitution from v.H.M. (referred to below as 'the second applicant'), a cousin of G, relating to the same painting.
The rationale for both applications for restitution was a letter from the Origins Unknown Agency (referred to below as 'BHG') dated 20 October 2004 in which a number of members of the Goudeket family were asked to provide information relating to the painting with inventory number NK 3424. In that letter, BHG mentioned that NK 3424 probably originated from the estate of Isaac Goudeket, the grandfather of the applicants, which was surrendered to the looting bank Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. in Amsterdam.
As a result of the request for advice, the Restitutions Committee began an investigation into the facts, the results of which were incorporated in a draft investigatory report dated 20 June 2005. This draft was presented to the applicants in letters dated 28 June 2005. Both applicants responded to the draft report, after which some points in the report were altered. On 4 August 2005 the Restitutions Committee adopted the definitive investigatory report and sent it to the applicants for their information. The content of all the above-mentioned documents and records is considered to be included in this advice and to form a part of it.
General considerations (with respect to private individuals and art dealers)
a) The Restitutions Committee has drawn up its opinion with due regard for the relevant (lines of) policy issued by the Ekkart Committee and the government.
b) The Restitutions Committee asked itself whether it is acceptable that an opinion to be issued is influenced by its potential consequences for decisions in subsequent cases. The Committee resolved that such influence cannot be accepted, save in cases where special circumstances apply, since allowing such influence would be impossible to justify to the applicant concerned.
c) The Restitutions Committee then asked itself how to deal with the circumstance that certain facts can no longer be ascertained, that certain information has been lost or has not been recovered, or that evidence can no longer be otherwise compiled. On this issue the Committee believes that, if the problems that have arisen can be attributed at least in part to the lapse of time, the associated risk should be borne by the government, save in cases where exceptional circumstances apply.
d) The Restitutions Committee believes that insights and circumstances which, according to generally accepted views, have evidently changed since the Second World War should be granted the status of nova (new facts).
General consideration (solely with respect to art dealers)
e) Involuntary sales shall also include sales – without the approval of the art dealer – by Verwalters or other administrators not appointed by the owner, from the old trading stock placed under their administration, in so far as the original owners or their heirs have not enjoyed the full benefit of the transaction and in so far as the owner has not expressly waived his or her rights after the war ended.
The applicants are requesting the restitution of the painting NK 3424, Venus and Adonis and Amor by J.A. Uytewael in their capacity as heirs of their grandfather, Isaac Goudeket. In this context, the committee has noted two attestations of admissibility to the estate of Isaac Goudeket which are in the investigatory dossier, the first drawn up on 16 July 1948 by the civil-law notary Adolph Roos in Amsterdam and the second drawn up on 15 June 1959 by the civil-law notary Antonie Wouter Voors in Heemstede. In this procedure, the applicants are not acting on behalf of the joint heirs. The first applicant is acting for himself and the second applicant has stated that he is acting jointly for himself and his sister, S.-M.
The Committee has considered the following with regard to the loss of ownership during the war. Isaac Goudeket, who was born on 19 May 1882 in Amsterdam and died on 9 April 1943 in Sobibor, was the owner of a painting described in the 1940s as a Mythological representation by J. Rottenhammer. A detailed description of the loss of ownership can be found in the investigatory report. The following description is considered sufficient in this context. Isaac Goudeket, who was of Jewish origin, lived and worked in Amsterdam until the end of 1942. On 15 September 1942, he and his family went into hiding but he was arrested shortly after that. He and his wife, two daughters and his youngest grandson died in Sobibor extermination camp on 9 April 1943. His daughter G. and his eldest grandson G., who is one of the present applicants, were among the few direct members of his family who survived the war. Before his arrest, Isaac Goudeket had stored a quantity of valuable objects with non-Jewish acquaintances but the occupier was nonetheless able to get hold of them. On 22 January 1943, the Devisenschutzkommando sent a list of these goods to the German looting institution, Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. (known as the 'Liro bank'). Apart from six other paintings and many silver objects, the list mentions an 'Oelgemälde von dem Maler J. Rotenhammer' ['Oil painting by the painter J. Rotenhammer']. According to the Liro list of paintings, the looting bank sold the 'Mythologische voorst.' ('Mythological representation') by 'J. Rottenhammer' on 13 September 1943 for 100 guilders to the Lempertz company in Cologne, which was one of the most important customers for Jewish art property handed in to the Liro bank. What happened to the painting by Rottenhammer after it was bought by Lempertz is unknown. On this basis the Committee firmly believes that Isaac Goudeket did involuntarily lose a painting described as a Mythological representation by the artist J. Rottenhammer, as a direct consequence of the Nazi regime.
The following is known concerning the provenance of the claimed painting Venus and Adonis and Amor by J.A. Uytewael (NK 3424). Records kept by successive administrators of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (NK collection) show that the painting NK 3424 was part of a group of objects in the NK collection that were probably not transported to Germany during the war but instead remained in the Netherlands, and after the war were in the buildings of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Het Plein in The Hague. That location was used by the occupying authorities during the war. After the war various goods were found, particularly in the official residence at Plein 1813, no. 2, which had apparently been left behind by the German occupying forces. These goods included the painting NK 3424 that at that time was still described in an inventory list as 'Rottenhammer: Venus, Mars and Amor'. Corrections to both the title and the artist’s name were made at a later date. The painting is currently registered in the Dutch National Art Collection as Venus and Adonis and Amor by J.A. Uytewael, with 'in the style of H. Rottenhammer' referring to its previous attribution. Conclusive proof of the provenance history of NK 3424 during the war is therefore not available. However, it is probable that NK 3424 is identical to the Liro Goudeket painting, in view of the name of the person to whom the painting is attributed, the representation and the location where NK 3424 was found after the war. After consulting the information collected by BHG during its investigation, Dr R.E.O. Ekkart, former head of BHG and Director of the Netherlands Institute for Art History concluded: ‘The likelihood that NK 3424 is indeed Goudeket’s painting is, in my opinion, very great.’ These findings from the provenance investigation by BHG formed a rationale for the agency to contact the Goudeket family at the end of 2004, which led to these two claims being submitted.
On the request of the Restitutions Committee, the first applicant described the painting lost by his grandfather as follows:
"Although I cannot describe the painting in your possession and cannot give you any details about it – I last visited my grandparents on 28 August 1942, and had therefore just turned 12 years old. I seem to remember that there was a “mythological” painting in the library behind the dining room, hanging on the wall next to the double doors that led from the dining room to the library. […] Another reason is that every time I saw my grandmother she greeted me with the nickname “Adonis” (I was then their only grandson) referring to that mythological picture."
The Committee thus considers it sufficiently probable that NK 3424 is the painting that Isaac Goudeket lost.
Until recently, the family of Isaac Goudeket was unaware of the location of the painting concerned. There is therefore no question of a settled application for restitution of this painting. At the end of the 1950s, the Dutch government did return another painting from the Isaac Goudeket estate to the family. This work of art had likewise fallen into the hands of the Liro bank during the war. It depicted a landscape with cows by the artist A. Verhoesen, which it had been possible to recover from Germany after the liberation. The painting was handed over to the son of M.-G., v.H.M., the second applicant in the current procedure, on 9 October 1959. In this context the Committee has taken note of the complaint made by the first applicant, G., that he was never informed by the Dutch authorities of the discovery of the Verhoesen painting in 1959 and its return to his cousin.
Based on the above, the Committee considers the application for restitution of the painting Venus and Adonis and Amor by J.A. Uytewael (NK 3424) to the joint heirs of Isaac Goudeket to be admissible.
The Restitutions Committee advises the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science to return the painting Venus and Adonis and Amor by J.A. Uytewael (NK 3424) to the heirs of Isaac Goudeket.
Adopted at the meeting on 7 September 2005,
B.J. Asscher (Chairman)
P.J.N. van Os
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart
I.C. van der Vlies