Venus in Vulcan's Smithy after F. Boucher
Advice concerning the application for restitution of NK 3298
By letter of 2 April 2002 the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science asked the Committee for advice about the decision to be taken concerning the application by F.M. for restitution of the painting “Venus in Vulcan’s Smithy” after F. Boucher (NK 3298).
In connection with the application for restitution, which was filed on 10 October 2001, the Cultural Heritage Ownership Inspectorate (Inspectie Cultuurbezit) carried out an investigation into the facts. The findings of the investigation were included in a research report dated 18 March 2002, which was sent to the applicant.
The Committee has drawn up its opinion with due regard for the relevant lines of policy issued by the Ekkart Committee and the government.
The Committee asked itself whether it is acceptable that an opinion to be issued is influenced by its potential consequences for decisions in other cases. The Committee resolved that such influence cannot be accepted, save cases where special circumstances apply, since allowing such influence would be impossible to justify to the applicant concerned.
The Committee then asked itself how to deal with the circumstance that certain facts can no longer be traced, that certain data has been lost or has not been retrieved, 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 cases where exceptional circumstances apply.
Finally, the 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 new facts.
The research report mentioned above states that the painting "Venus in Vulcan’s Smithy" was the property of a Mrs H. M.-M, who was of Jewish descent. She involuntarily lost possession of the painting during the occupation. Her claims of title to the painting are plausible and have indeed been acknowledged by the Dutch authorities.
The application for restitution should be regarded as a new claim, since the request for restoration of property rights made at the time never resulted in a valid decision, due to the erroneous notion that tax debts incurred by Mrs M.’s husband, Mr E.M. M., could be recovered from the painting.
Given that the proceeds on the sale of the painting at the time, to an amount of NLG 1,000, were never transferred to Mrs M., no refund can be claimed. Since the government, in accordance with its policy in cases like the present one, refrains from invoking prescription, there is nothing that would obstruct restitution of the painting.
In view of the above the Committee advises the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science to return the painting "Venus in Vulcan’s Smithy" to the heirs of Mrs H. M.-M.
Adopted at the meeting of 22 April 2002.
J.M. Polak (Chairman)
B.J. Asscher (Vice Chairman)
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart