Drawing by Hendrick Goltzius on the back of a playing card
Recommendation regarding the application for the restitution of Woman standing with veil by Hendrick Goltzius
In a letter dated 5 July 2005, the State Secretary for Culture, Education and Science asked the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation regarding the application by
Mr Uri-Arthur Peled-Feldmann, Ms H. H.-F. and Ms R. E. A.-F ( hereafter referred to as ‘the applicants’) dated 5 May 2005, for the restitution of the sketch Woman standing with veil by Hendrick Goltzius.
The applicants were initially represented by Ms A. Webber, co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe (hereafter referred to as ‘CLAE’). The applicants subsequently revoked this power of attorney and they have since been represented by Mr Uri-Arthur Peled-Feldmann. In response to the request for a recommendation, the Restitutions Committee instituted a fact-finding investigation, the results of which were summarised in a draft report dated 2 March 2006. The report is based largely on research and source material supplied by the CLAE at the request of the applicants. The draft report was submitted to the applicants for comment, which they proceeded to give in a letter dated 20 March 2006. In this letter, the applicants state that they would prefer full compensation for the value rather than restitution of the sketch in order that the work remain accessible to the general public in the Rijksmuseum and that a plaque bearing the history of the work be displayed alongside it.
The Restitutions Committee adopted the research report on 15 May 2006. As regards the facts of the case, the Committee refers to the research report, which is considered an integral part of this recommendation.
a) The 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 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 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 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.
e) Involuntary loss of possession is also understood to mean sale without the art dealer’s consent by ‘Verwalters’ [Nazi-appointed caretakers who took over management of firms owned by Jews] or other custodians not appointed by the owner of items from the old trading stock under their custodianship, in so far as the original owner or his heirs did not receive all the profits of the transaction, or in so far as the owner did not expressly waive his rights after the war.
In their capacity as heirs of their grandfather, Mr Arthur Feldmann, who died in 1941, the applicants request restitution of or, in this case, compensation for the sketch entitled Woman standing with veil by Hendrick Goltzius. This sketch is part of the National Art Collection, but not, however, of what is known as the Netherlands Art Property Collection of recovered works. The sketch is currently in the Rijksmuseum / National Print Collection. The applicants are the children of Mr Karl Feldmann, son of Arthur Feldmann. The Committee has taken cognisance of a notarially certified statement to the effect that they are the sole heirs of Arthur Feldmann and his two sons, Otto and Karl Feldmann, who died in 1956 and 1989, respectively.
In brief, the fact-finding investigation revealed the following: Arthur Feldmann, of Jewish extraction, lived with his wife in Brno in Czechoslovakia. He was a noted lawyer and businessman and had amassed a considerable fortune. As an art collector, he had been building up an internationally acclaimed collection of sketches by Old Masters since the 1920s, which he kept at his house. As a result of the economic downturn, Feldmann was forced to put part of his collection up for auction in 1934. Although the claimed object was among the works up for auction – as evidenced by the auction catalogue – it was not sold. This therefore clearly identifies the claimed work as being the property of Feldmann, at any rate in 1934. There are no indications that Feldmann sold any more works after 1934. In 1939, the collection comprised approximately 750 works.
On 15 March 1939, German troops invaded Czechoslovakia. As an active Zionist, Feldmann was severely affected by the anti-Jewish measures. Immediately after the invasion, his license to practise law was revoked and his assets frozen. In early 1941, he was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death. After suffering a stroke, he was released from prison but died a few days later on 16 March 1941. His wife died in Auschwitz in 1942.
Regarding the loss of the claimed object, it is a known fact that the Gestapo confiscated Feldmann’s villa immediately after the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Witnesses confirmed that Feldman and his wife were forced to leave the house within two hours and they were not permitted to take their belongings with them, with the exception of some hand luggage. The Committee has taken cognisance of statements by witnesses confirming that the collection of sketches was still at the house at that point. Both Feldmann’s sons and their wives managed to escape to Palestine. They, too, were unable to take their father’s collection of sketches with them. It is very likely therefore that the collection of sketches, including the claimed object, fell into the hands of the Gestapo. In connection with this, the Committee refers to a decision rendered by the court of justice in Berlin on 20 October 1971 in a case Karl Feldmann had brought against the German state in which he claimed damages for the loss of the works of art. In its decision, the court considered it proven that part of the Feldmann collection, included the presently claimed object, had been confiscated by the Gestapo.
Exactly what happened to the collection of sketches during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia is not known. The investigation did reveal that part of the collection, including the claimed object, was put up for auction in London by an anonymous seller in early February 1946, where it was purchased by a London art dealer. In 1949, the work was sold to the Rijksmuseum / National Print Collection, thus becoming part of the National Art Collection.
Based on these facts, the Committee considers it sufficiently proven that Feldmann was the owner of the claimed object at the start of the occupation of Czechoslovakia. Moreover, the Committee regards it highly probable that the work was confiscated by the Gestapo, thus confirming the involuntary loss of possession.
Given that the applicable criteria for restitution have thus been met, the Committee considers the application for restitution of Woman standing with veil by Hendrick Goltzius allowable. As there is no question of a prior settlement of the application for restitution, nothing more stands in the way of granting the claim.
The Restitutions Committee advises the State Secretary for Culture, Education and Science to return the work Woman standing with veil by Hendrick Goltzius to the heirs of Arthur Feldmann.
Adopted at the meeting of 15 May 2006,
B.J. Asscher (chair)
P.J.N. van Os
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart