Still life with fish on trestle table by Van Beyeren
Advice concerning the application for restitution of Still life with fish on trestle table by A. van Beyeren (NK 2483)
By letter of 24 September 2002, the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science asked the Restitutions Committee for advice on the decision to be taken concerning the application of Mrs S.H. H.-M., of 9 September 2002, for restitution of the painting Still life with fish on trestle table by A. van Beyeren (NK 2483).
Further to the application for restitution, an investigation was initiated into the facts and the results were recorded in a report dated 16 January 2003. This report was submitted by the Committee to the applicant, who then responded in the letter dated 8 April 2003. Partly on the basis of this response, the Committee decided to initiate an investigation in order to acquire certainty concerning the identity of the owner of the painting by Van Beyeren in the years between 1939 and 1942.
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 is acting on behalf of the heirs of her grandfather, ‘M. v.d.S.’ (also referred to as ‘M.’), who was held to be a Jew during the war and who was born on 26 February 1884 in Den Briel and who died in Rotterdam on 30 April 1959.
The applicant approached the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science as a result of a publication via the website of the Origins Unknown agency (hereinafter referred to as Bureau Herkomst Gezocht). This publication referred, in the reconstruction of events that led up to the loss of the painting by Van Beyeren from the estate, to 'M.v.d.S. in Rotterdam' and the applicant recognised this name as being that of her grandfather. In her letter to the Committee of 5 October 2002, she writes that the circumstances under which the painting was lost are unknown, but that it was probably sold under duress in 1942.
The investigation revealed that, between 1939 and 1942, the painting by Van Beyeren belonged to M.v.d.S. in Rotterdam. On 3 December 1942, the painting by Van Beyeren, together with a hunting still life by Van Aelst, were purchased for NLG 10,000 by art dealer Douwes from 'M.v.d.S. in Rotterdam', as stated in this art dealer’s archives.
The investigation also revealed that it is far from certain that the owner of the two paintings - the otherwise unspecified ‘M.v.d.S. in Rotterdam’ – is the grandfather of the applicant (M.v.d.S.). In the archives of the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, data was found on the basis of which it has to be assumed that, in any event, the painting by Van Aelst, which was sold at the same time as the painting by Van Beyeren, did not belong to the grandfather of the applicant (M.v.d.S.), but instead was owned by another resident of Rotterdam with the name M.v.d.S.
Further investigation resulted in contact with Mrs M.Th.v.d.S., daughter of M.P.J.v.d.S. who died in 1968. In her letter of 8 July 2002, Ms v.d.S. stated that, "I can remember the painting very clearly, including the place where it used to hang at 's Gravenweg 109. The only thing I know is that he [M.Ph.J.v.d.S.] purchased it from Mr J.D. Klaassen, from whom he had bought all his 17th century paintings. He was a friend of the family and we called him uncle Jaap.” Given that the applicant has not been able to supply any additional documentation on the basis of which ownership of the painting by her grandfather is plausible, the Committee does not see any reason to doubt this statement by Mrs v.d.S. M.P.J.v.d.S. should therefore be designated the pre-war owner of NK 2483, Still life with fish on trestle table by A. van Beyeren.
The Committee therefore regards the request for restitution to the heirs of Mr M. v.d.S. as unsustainable.
In view of the above, the Committee advises the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science to reject the request by Mrs S.H. H.-M. for restitution of the painting Still life with fish on trestle table by A. van Beyeren (NK 2483).
Adopted at the meeting of 18 September 2003.
J.M. Polak (Chairman)
B.J. Asscher (Vice Chairman)
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart