Reclining Nude by J.C.B. Sluijters
Recommendation regarding the application for the restitution of Reclining Nude by J.C.B. Sluijters (NK 3392)
In a letter dated 1 November 2006, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) asked the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation regarding the application dated 7 September 2005 submitted by S.M.C. (hereafter referred to as ‘the applicant’) for the restitution of the painting entitled Reclining Nude by J.C.B. Sluijters (NK 3392). The claimed work of art is part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection under the custody of the national government and is currently on long-term loan from the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage to the Stedelijk Museum, Schiedam.
The reason for the application for restitution was a letter from the Origins Unknown Agency (hereafter referred to as ‘BHG’) of 23 February 2005 to the applicant, containing a request for further information concerning the painting NK 3392, that, according to BHG, had belonged to her father, C. ter Laare. In response to the application for restitution that was subsequently submitted, the Restitutions Committee instituted a fact-finding investigation, the results of which were summarised in a draft report dated 27 November 2006. This draft report was submitted to the applicant, who was asked to provide more specific information regarding the involuntary nature of the loss of property and the connection with the Nazi regime. The applicant responded on 23 December 2006, but could not furnish more detailed information on this matter. The report was subsequently adopted on 11 June 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 her capacity as the heir to her father, Cornelis Maria Leonard ter Laare (1909-2006), requests the restitution of the painting Reclining Nude by J.C.B. Sluijters (NK 3392). In this context, the Committee has taken cognisance of his will, dated 29 September 1992, as amended by codicil on 23 April 1999.
Cornelis Maria Leonard ter Laare was an embroiderer by trade and of Dutch nationality. In 1932, he married Cornelia Elisabeth Haasma, which resulted in the birth of a son, Rudolf Leonardus ter Laare. In 1939, this marriage was dissolved and he married Esther van der Goen, with whom he had two daughters, J.C. (born 1943) and the applicant, S.M. (born 1947). During the war, the family lived in the Graaf Florisstraat in Amsterdam. Ter Laare was not Jewish and did not, as far as is known to the Committee, belong to any other persecuted group.
During the investigation into the provenance of the claimed painting, no sources could be found that established with any certainty when or from whom Ter Laare had acquired the claimed painting. There are several declarations in the archives of the Netherlands Art Property Foundation (SNK) from Ter Laare himself regarding the ownership and loss of the claimed work. In a declaration form of September 1945 and in his correspondence with the SNK, Ter Laare stated that during the war, he bought the painting from a Mrs De Barbanson and, in 1944, sent it to an address in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. In Gelsenkirchen, a person by the name of Mr P. de Ree was commissioned by Ter Laare to sell the painting. Ter Laare stated that the sale did not go through but that the painting was not returned to him. In light of his subsequently unsuccessful attempts to recover the painting, he requested that the SNK bring the painting back to the Netherlands for him after the war. A more detailed investigation by the Committee into the acquisition of the painting by Ter Laare during the war and the loss of it some time later failed to provide any further information. For this investigation, the Committee consulted, among others, an expert on Sluijters from the Netherlands Institute of Art History and had genealogical research carried out into the painting’s former owner, Mrs De Barbanson.
It has emerged from the investigation that the SNK traced the work to Germany and in May 1948 returned it to the Netherlands. The Committee has taken cognisance of the inventory card accompanying the work, which states that the painting was originally the property of Ter Laare and that it was sold to P. de Ree in Gelsenkirchen. It is unknown on what this information is based. No indications have been found that the SNK informed Ter Laare about the recuperation of the painting. As far as is known, the last contact between Ter Laare and the SNK in connection with the work was in August 1947.
Pursuant to current national policy in respect of the restitution of works of art, the Committee can only advise restitution if it is deemed sufficiently likely that the work was originally the property of Ter Laare and whether possession thereof was relinquished involuntarily as a consequence of circumstances directly associated with the Nazi regime. In the Committee’s opinion, the conditions for restitution have not been met. Even if Ter Laare’s declaration in regard to ownership of the work were to be accepted as sufficient evidence, there is still the matter of whether a connection exists between the loss of property and the Nazi regime. Neither the existing archival material nor Ter Laare’s declarations show that Ter Laare was forced by the Nazis to send the painting to Gelsenkirchen to be sold. Given the fact that Ter Laare did not belong to a persecuted group, the Committee is also of the opinion that there is no reason to suppose that any coercion took place. The applicant has also been unable to provide further information in this regard. Accordingly, the Committee deems there to be insufficient evidence pointing to involuntary loss associated with the Nazi regime.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to reject the request for restitution of the painting Reclining Nude by J.C.B. Sluijters (NK 3392).
Adopted at the meeting of 11 June 2007,
B.J. Asscher (chair)
J.C.M. Leijten P.J.N. van Os
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart
I.C. van der Vlies