Unloading the hay wagon by Isaac van Ostade
Recommendation regarding the application for the restitution of Unloading the hay wagon by Isaac van Ostade
In a letter dated 31 October 2006, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) asked the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation regarding the application dated 23 August 2006 submitted by A.M. in France (hereafter referred to as ‘the applicant’) for the restitution of a painting by Isaac van Ostade entitled Unloading the hay wagon (NK 1861). The claimed work of art is part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (NK collection) and is on long-term loan to the Stadsmuseum in IJsselstein.
In response to the application for restitution, the Restitutions Committee instituted a fact-finding investigation, the results of which were summarised in a draft report dated 11 June 2007 and submitted to the applicant in a letter dated 13 July 2007. The applicant was also requested to supply supporting documents. The applicant’s response, including the requested information, was received on 1 August 2007 and the report was subsequently adopted on 1 October 2007. For the facts of the case, the Committee refers to its investigatory 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.
The applicant, in his capacity as heir of Anna Emilie Jaffé-Gluge (hereafter referred to as Anna Jaffé), requests the restitution of the 17th-century painting Unloading the hay wagon by Isaac van Ostade. The applicant has stated to be acting on behalf of the other heirs. Anna Jaffé was married to Joseph John Jaffé (hereafter referred to as John Jaffé), who died on 6 May 1934. Anna Jaffé passed away in March 1942, having listed four family members as her heirs, including her nephew G.C. The applicant has stated that he is his grandson.
The investigation has revealed the following. John Jaffé and his wife were both Jewish. They were British subjects but lived in Nice, France, at Villa Jaffé, where the couple owned a substantial art collection. Based on the investigation, the committee has found sufficient proof to conclude that the claimed painting NK 1861 was part of the Jaffé collection. The third volume of the standard work Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten Holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts [Descriptive and critical index of the works of the most outstanding Dutch painters of the 17th century] by Dr C. Hofstede de Groot, published in 1910, cites John Jaffé as last owner of a panel by I. van Ostade. In the committee’s opinion, the description of the panel is convincingly similar to the claimed work NK 1861. In addition, the applicant has stated that various family members who visited Villa Jaffé between 1935 and 1938 recognised the image of NK 1861 on the BHG website as formerly belonging to the Jaffés.
During the Second World War, Nice was governed by the Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazis. Anna Jaffé died in March 1942. In October 1942, the Commissariat General aux Affaires Juives [State Commission for Jewish Affairs] appointed an administrator to administer her estate. Against the wishes of the heirs, the authorities auctioned Jaffé’s art collection in Nice on 12 and 13 July 1943. The committee deems it plausible that the claimed work of art NK 1861 was also auctioned. As proof thereof and at the request of the committee, the applicant has supplied a copy of the illustrated auction catalogue that contains a picture corresponding to the claimed work of art NK 1861. This conclusion is confirmed by the fact that an investigation into the photograph collection of the Netherlands Institute for Art History showed that the genre of Isaac van Ostade does include farming scenes but that a painting of a loaded hay wagon is relatively unique. Therefore, the committee considers it very likely that the claimed work NK 1861 was part of the auctioned estate of the Mr and Mrs Jaffé.
Furthermore, several documents show that the painting was bought at the auction by a certain Madame Bonfils, of whom no other information is known to exist, and was subsequently bought from an art dealer in Paris in September 1943 by W.A. Hofer for Göring’s collection.
After the war, the painting was mistakenly recovered to the Netherlands from Munich. Presumably, the Netherlands Art Property Foundation concluded that the work came from an art dealer in Amsterdam due to a statement by Hofer issued after the war. The internal SNK report pertaining to NK 1861 states that the work originally belonged to an art dealership in Amsterdam. The committee considers it likely that the statement by Hofer was erroneous and therefore that the information on the provenance of the painting in the SNK’s archive was also incorrect. As far as is known, there have been no applications for the restitution of NK 1861 since the end of the war.
Pursuant to current government policy regarding the restitution of items of cultural value, restitution can be recommended only if it is highly probable that the claimed object was originally the property of Anna Jaffé and if the work of art was relinquished involuntarily due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
On the basis of the abovementioned investigation, the committee concludes that both conditions for restitution have been met. The committee is of the opinion that there is sufficient evidence to presume that the work of art NK 1861 belonged to Anna Jaffé until her death in March 1942 and after that was auctioned by the French authorities in Nice in collaboration with the Nazis without the heirs’ consent. This proves that it was indeed a case of involuntary loss of possession. As there is no question of this case having been settled in the past, there are no grounds for not allowing the restitution application.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to return the painting Unloading the hay wagon by Isaac van Ostade (NK 1861) to the heirs of Anna Jaffé.
Adopted at the meeting of 1 October 2007,
B.J. Asscher (chair)
P.J.N. van Os
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart
I.C. van der Vlies (vice-chair)