Portrait of a woman with a little dog and View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug
Advice concerning the application for restitution of NK 2181 and NK 2115
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 filed on 7 February 2002 by P.H., on behalf of the heirs of Mr J. H., for restitution of the paintings “Portrait of a Woman with a Little Dog” (NK 2181) and “View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug” (NK 2115).
In connection with the application for restitution, an investigation into the facts was carried out by order of the Restitutions Committee. The findings of the investigation were included in a research report dated 4 September 2002, which was sent to the applicant. In a letter dated 14 September 2002 Mr P.H., on the Committee’s request, stated to have filed his application also on behalf of the heirs of Mrs L. H.
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 applicant must be regarded as a representative of both the heirs of Mr J. H. and of the latter’s sister-in-law, Mrs L. H.
The research report mentioned above indicates that Mr J. H. was the owner of “Portrait of a Woman with a Little Dog” (NK 2181) and, furthermore, that Mrs L. H. must be regarded as the owner of the painting “View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug” (NK 2115).
The two paintings were involuntarily lost from Mr J. H.’s and Mrs L. H.’s estates as a result of persecution by the Nazi regime.
The H. family’s claims of title to “View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug” (NK 2115) were acknowledged by the Dutch authorities after the war. In the Committee’s view, changed insights into the financial conditions imposed upon the H. family after the war constitute ‘new facts’ as referred to in the policy. The application for restitution is therefore allowable.
Given that no previous applications for restitution of “Portrait of a Woman with a Little Dog” have been filed (NK 2181), this application for restitution is allowable as well.
One problem concerning “View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug” (NK 2115) is the circumstance that although restitution is fully allowable, the painting itself has proved to be untraceable. Consequently, in its conclusion the Committee cannot advise that it should be returned but will have to restrict itself to an opinion to the effect that the claim by the heirs of Mrs L. H. should be honoured in the form of an indemnification in case the painting continues to be untraceable.
Since no evidence has been found to suggest that the sales proceeds were transferred to the owner at any point in time, no refund can be claimed.
In view of the above the Committee advises the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science to return the painting “Portrait of a Woman with a Little Dog” (NK 2181) to the heirs of Mr J. H. and indemnify the heirs of Mrs L. H. with respect to “View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug” (NK 2115).
Adopted at the meeting of 23 September 2002.
J.M. Polak (Chairman)
B.J. Asscher (Vice Chairman)
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart