Art dealership Mossel

Recommendation regarding Kunsthandel Mossel

Recommendation number: 
1.51
Type: 
NK collection
Publishing date: 
7 January 2008
Period loss of possession: 
1940-1945
Private owner/art dealer: 
Art dealership
Location of loss: 
The Netherlands

In a letter dated 23 October 2006, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) (hereafter referred to as ‘the minister’) asked the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation regarding the application by Mrs V. de J.-S. in S.-L.-W., Belgium (hereafter referred to as ‘the applicant’) for the restitution of the following objects:

NK 126: statue of Mary Magdalene made of sandstone;
NK 127: statue of Madonna with child made of sandstone;
NK 183-A-B: round bowl with lid;
NK 253: China cabinet;
NK 266: small oak cupboard with pilasters;
NK 319: China plate;
NK 346A-B: two glazed pottery vases and covers;
NK 396: African hunting horn;
NK 425A-E: Delft vases;
NK 481 A-B: glass decanter and stopper;
NK 482: thumbglass;
NK 483A-B: tankard with glass, partially cut lid;
NK 484: Vexier glass;
NK 486: brass bowl;
NK 552: renaissance oak-canopy cupboard;
NK 561: A. planer, bronze clock;
NK 691A-E: five walnut chairs;
NK 908: De Paauw, glazed pottery dish;
NK 912A-G: seven glazed pottery dishes;
NK 931A-B: two Chinese porcelain vases;
NK 932A-B: Chinese jar and cover;
NK 956A-F: six Limoges plaques with Biblical scenes;
NK 960: Louis XVI table;
NK 2014: E.A. Haanen, Children with dog in garden;
NK 2015: E.A. Haanen, Interior with two children and dogs.

According to the applicant, these objects were part of the former trading stock of the art dealer S.E. Mossel (hereafter also referred to as ‘Kunsthandel Mossel’) in Amsterdam. Since their recovery after the Second World War, the claimed objects have been part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (hereafter referred to as ‘NK collection’) and can be found in various museums and government institutions both in the Netherlands and abroad under the abovementioned inventory numbers.

The procedure

The reason for the application for restitution was a letter from the Origins Unknown Agency (hereafter referred to as ‘BHG’) of 13 July 2006 to the applicant concerning the abovementioned works of art, which were possibly part of the trading stock of Kunsthandel Mossel during the Second World War. This was the basis for the applicant’s application for restitution of the works in a letter to the minister dated 31 August 2006. In response to the request for a recommendation that was subsequently submitted to the Restitutions Committee, it instituted a fact-finding investigation, the results of which were summarised in a draft investigatory report dated 3 September 2007. This draft report was sent to the applicant, after which she reacted by letter on 2 October 2007, providing the Committee with additional information. This information was included in the investigatory report that was adopted at a meeting on 7 January 2008 along with details stemming from more detailed investigation. For the facts of the case, the Committee refers to its investigatory report, which is considered an integral part of this recommendation. In conclusion, it should be noted that there was also a contradictory claim submitted by R.L. for the statue of Mary Magdalene made of sandstone (NK 126), which prompted the Committee to issue the Minister with a recommendation to reject the application for restitution on 6 August 2007. Furthermore, a contradictory claim has also been submitted for the African hunting horn (NK 396). This object is also part of the application with file number RC 1.87, which is currently being investigated by the Committee.

General considerations

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 if the art was privately owned, 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) It is highly probable that loss of possession was involuntary if the object was sold without the art dealer’s consent and 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.

Explanation of general considerations c and e[1]

In line with the recommendations with regard to art dealing and the explanation thereof, the Committee has come to the conclusion that consideration c should only apply to the ownership of art by private parties. Consideration e has been modified accordingly and, furthermore, this consideration should be taken to mean that only those objects that were effectively part of the old trading stock are eligible for restitution.

Special considerations:

  1. The applicant requests restitution of the following objects: NK 126, NK 127, NK 183A-B, NK 253, NK 266, NK 319, NK 346A-B, NK 396, NK 425A-E, NK 481A-B, NK 482, NK 483A-B, NK 484, NK 486, NK 552, NK 561, NK 691A-E, NK 908, NK 912A-G, NK 931A-B, NK 932A-B, NK 956A-F, NK 960, NK 2014 and NK 2015. The applicant is a great niece cousin and foster daughter of the now deceased Meier Mossel, who was a partner in Kunsthandel Mossel. The applicant has stated in her application for restitution that she is acting on behalf of the heirs of Meier Mossel and his brothers Elias and Simon, who were also partners in the company.

  2. The relevant facts are described in the draft report of 7 January 2008. The following summary will suffice for this recommendation. Kunsthandel Mossel was established by Mr Salomon Elias Mossel. On 6 February 1912, his sons, Elias and Meier, joined the business. According to the company file, which was found in the archive of the trade register in the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce (hereafter referred to as ‘the trade register’), the business was located at Rokin 120 in Amsterdam. A third son, Simon Mossel, became a partner in the business on 1 August 1920. After the death of Salomon Elias Mossel in the mid-1930s, the three brothers continued the company.

  3. During the Second World War, the German occupying forces in the Netherlands employed various measures to proceed with the systematic registration, management and liquidation of Jewish businesses. On 12 March 1941, the Verordnung (Decree) 48/1941 was issued – the ‘decree to remove all Jews from the business sector’. Based on this decree, Jewish businesses were put into administration and subsequently wound up by a Liquidationstreuhänder (liquidation trustee) or bought and permanently administered by a Verwaltungstreuhänder (administration trustee), known as Verwalter. Pursuant to the above decree, Jacques Jansen was appointed Verwalter of Kunsthandel Mossel on 27 November 1941 and the Niederländische Aktiengesellschaft für Abwicklung von Unternehmungen (NAGU) in The Hague was appointed administrator, with the authority to sell off the business.

  4. Details were found during the Committee’s archival research regarding the ins and outs of Kunsthandel Mossel during the Second World War. Meier Mossel was the only partner to survive the war. The trade register indicates that on 12 January 1946, the Netherlands Property Administration Institute (hereafter referred to as ‘NBI’) appointed him administrator of Simon and Elias Mossel’s estate, including, therefore, Kunsthandel Mossel. A statement was found in the Central Archive Special Criminal Jurisdiction from an office clerk who had worked for Verwalter Jansen. This person stated that virtually nothing was left of the property in the business after liberation. Meier Mossel himself continued to do business after the war under the name ‘M. Mossel’. According to details in the trade register, this art dealership was discontinued on 14 September 1951 after the death of Meier Mossel on the same date.

  5. After the war, a declaration was made on behalf of Kunsthandel Mossel concerning the sale of various objects that were lost from the art dealers during the war. The declaration forms are signed ‘S.E. Mossel’, most probably Meier Mossel himself. Those same forms also reported both voluntary and involuntary sales. As far as is known, Mossel classified all sales to the Dienststelle Mühlmann on his declaration forms as being involuntary. The forms involving sales to persons other than Mühlmann state that the sales were voluntary.

  6. The application for restitution in question concerns various art objects, registered under 25 NK numbers. With regard to their ownership, the claimed objects have been divided into three categories for the following consideration.

    NK 396, NK 912A-G, NK 319, NK 2014, NK 2015, NK 481A-B

    With regard to the ownership of the six abovementioned objects, the investigation has shown the following. It can be concluded from the reconstruction of provenance carried out by the Origins Unknown Agency (hereafter referred to as ‘BHG’) and the other archive material found that uncertainty exists surrounding the provenance name S.E. Mossel. It is possible that the name S.E. Mossel has been confused with another art dealer in Amsterdam with regard to several of these works. NK 396, for instance, has also been claimed in case number RC 1.87, which is currently being investigated by the Committee. The applicant has not been able to support ownership of the objects in question with further evidence. The Committee is therefore obliged to conclude that ownership of the six abovementioned works has not been made sufficiently plausible and therefore advises that the claim for these six works be refused.

    NK 126, NK 127, NK 183, NK 253, NK 266, NK 346A-B, NK 425A-E, NK 482, NK 483A-B, NK 484, NK 486, NK 552, NK 561, NK 691A-E, NK 908, NK 960

    With regard to the ownership of the sixteen abovementioned objects, the investigation has shown the following. It can be concluded from the reconstruction of provenance carried out by the BHG that the abovementioned objects were sold during the war by Kunsthandel Mossel. The Committee then endeavoured to determine whether the claimed objects were part of the old trading stock (bought by the owner) or the new trading stock (bought by the Verwalter). The Committee was unsuccessful in their attempt because, based on available information, it was no longer possible to determine when and from whom Kunsthandel Mossel bought the objects. In her application for restitution, the applicant stated that the majority of the claimed works was already owned by Kunsthandel Mossel before 1940. However, no facts or clues have come to light that support this statement and, moreover, it remains unclear to which of the works in question the applicant’s statement refers. Therefore, the Committee considers it highly unlikely that the works in question were part of the old trading stock and therefore advises that the claim for these sixteen works be refused.

    NK 931A-B, NK 932A-B, NK 956A-F

    With regard to the ownership of the three abovementioned objects, the investigation has shown the following. It can be concluded from the reconstruction of provenance carried out by the BHG that these objects were sold during the war by Kunsthandel Mossel. The Committee endeavoured to determine whether the claimed objects were part of the old trading stock (bought by the owner) or the new trading stock (bought by the Verwalter). It is clear from archive material that these three works were bought by Kunsthandel Mossel at an auction at the auction house of Frederik Muller on 25 February 1941. This was before the art dealership was put under the administration of the Verwalter on 27 November 1941 and therefore means that these three objects were part of the old trading stock.

    The Committee then asked the question as to whether there were any indications to suggest with any degree of certainty that the sale of these objects during the war constituted involuntary loss of possession due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. In order to assess this, the statement made by the art dealer after the war has to be accepted as such, pursuant to the Ekkart Committee’s fourth and sixth recommendations of January 2003 regarding the trading of art, unless circumstances are known that contradict this statement. Therefore, the Committee first investigated whether a statement was made after the war either by or on behalf of the partners with regard to these three works. The declaration forms that were drawn up on 22 October 1945 show that Meier Mossel declared that these works were sold voluntarily. Given these statements and the fact that there is no evidence to the contrary, the Committee considers it highly unlikely that these three NK works were lost involuntarily and therefore advises that the claim for the works NK 931A-B, NK 932A-B and NK 956A-F be refused.

Conclusion

The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to reject the application for restitution of the 25 NK works in question.

Adopted at the meeting of 7 January 2008,

R. Herrmann (chair)
J.Th.M. Bank
J.C.M. Leijten
P.J.N. van Os
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart
I.C. van der Vlies (vice-chair)

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[1] Until 12 November 2007, general considerations c and e read:
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.
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, insofar as the original owner or his heirs did not receive all the profits of the transaction, or insofar as the owner did not expressly waive his rights after the war
.