Recommendation regarding a tapestry
In a letter dated 17 December 2014 the Minister of Education, Culture and Science (hereinafter referred to as the Minister) asked the Restitutions Committee (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) for advice about the application from AA (hereinafter referred to as the Applicant), represented in this case by BB (hereinafter referred to as BB). This application concerns a tapestry (hereinafter also referred to as the tapestry), which is in Stadsmuseum in CC [Town Museum in CC] (hereinafter referred to as the Town Museum).
The Committee conducted an investigation into the facts in response to the Minister’s request for advice. The results of the investigation are recorded in an overview of the facts dated 22 July 2015. The Applicant and the Minister were given the opportunity to respond to this overview of the facts. The Minister stated in a letter dated 11 August 2015 that she did not have any comments. The Applicant responded in a letter dated 3 September 2015.
On 13 October 2015 there was a meeting between BB and the Committee’s chairman, secretary and one of its researchers. Subsequent to this meeting the Committee conducted supplementary research into the facts. The Committee held a hearing on 1 February 2016. BB was present on behalf of the Applicant. The Minister was represented by policy assistants I. Looman and C. Klopman, and E.W.M. Rodrigo, Dutch National Art Collection consultant. CC Council was represented by DD, a consultant.
The Committee adopted its advice to the Minister in its meeting of 7 March 2016. The Committee amended the overview of the facts in view of the Applicant’s response to the initial overview of the facts. This amended overview of the facts will be sent to the Minister together with the adopted advice.
- The Minister’s request for advice from the Committee was prompted by a letter from BB, on behalf of the Applicant, to Town Museum dated 18 November 2013. In this letter BB refers to information about the tapestry [...]. BB wrote that [...] EE (hereinafter referred to as EE) previously possessed [a few Gobelins]. These Gobelins were taken during the Second World War. [...]. BB also wrote that he, without telling the Applicant beforehand, showed her a photograph of the tapestry, and her immediate response was that a similar tapestry used to hang in her home. In his letter BB requests the Town Museum to investigate whether the tapestry in the museum might be one of [these missing] Gobelins.
- This request was forwarded to the Committee through intervention by the Minister. The investigation conducted by the Committee revealed the following.
EE stated the dimensions of the missing Gobelins [...] in [post-war correspondence]. EE furthermore mentioned that they were all in gilded frames [...]. After EE was evicted from his house in 1942, the Gobelins and his other possessions were taken by the Sicherheitsdienst (German Security Service). No further information about the Gobelins referred to in [post-war correspondence] was found during the investigation.
- The following is known about the tapestry in the Town Museum. The approximate dimensions are 205 x 201 cm. It depicts a hunting scene.
Among the documents sent to the Minister there is a statement dated 28 November 1979 by a certain FF of CC with the following declaration.
‘The undersigned, FF of CC, herewith declares that he received on loan from Mrs GG, resident of CC [...] a Gobelin depicting a hunting scene. Upon the death of Mrs GG this Gobelin will be transferred within 14 days to the [Town Museum] by the undersigned = without any payment - in accordance with the agreement with Mrs GG. Signed in CC on 28 November 1979.’
It can be deduced from an internal CC Council memo dated 21 April 1988 that FF handed over the tapestry to Town Museum on 20 April 1988.
In the CC Council file there are also two pages of handwritten telegram-style notes. ‘JJ, 9 June 1988’ is at the bottom of one of the pages. The notes are as follows.
Heldring & Pierson - archive
Tapestry was hanging on my wall with the approval of Dr H. Gerson. Deceased.
Gobelin probably dating from 1600 - 1700 - end 1800.
Gobelin was in the strongroom
Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD).
War 40 - 45
Korte Vijverberg 7
On 9 June 1988 a council employee noted the following, among other things, after a telephone call.
Note JJ 9 June 1988
Heldring & Pierson archive DWC
Was hanging at the RKD
obtained from former "head" of RKD, Gerson. On loan or really received.
Various telephone discussions with N.N. about the fact that the donation has not been officially accepted by the council because of the dubious origin and that Mrs HH does
not want to hear anything more about it
During that period Mrs GG was head of the cleaning and catering department of the RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art History).
After receipt of the tapestry, the council had to address the question of whether it wanted to accept it as a gift. Finally, on 21 February 1989, the council executive decided not to.
- The final report of the Museum Acquisitions 1940-1948 Project, published in 1999, summarizes the tapestry’s provenance as follows.
‘The museum states that in 1988 it received an artwork with an "obscure wartime history" from a private individual. It was a Gobelin depicting a hunting scene …. The donation was never officially accepted by CC Council because the work had arrived at the museum with question marks about its provenance. According to the museum the status of the Gobelin in the current collection is perhaps that of an item in safekeeping rather than a donation. The museum has a note with a few comments about the Gobelin’s provenance. In so far as it is possible to draw conclusions from these comments, during the war the Gobelin was in the strongroom of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD). At a certain moment the work allegedly ended up, with permission from an RKD employee, with the woman who later on donated it. The museum states that it has no way to retrieve more detailed information about the artwork’s provenance. This is connected to the fact that at the time the donor washed her hands of the Gobelin, with the express comment that she no longer wanted to be approached about this issue. The donor does not have any close relatives who could provide more information about the work’s origins. The researcher of the Museum Acquisitions 1940-1948 Committee asked a number of institutions and private individuals about the artwork’s provenance. These efforts did not produce any new information.’
- It is stated on the relevant website […]that further investigation after 1999 yielded no new data. The research conducted by the Committee into the tapestry’s provenance and, linked to this, into Mrs GG did not unearth any relevant new information either.
- The Committee does not consider it likely on the basis of the results of the investigation into the facts that the tapestry in the Town Museum is one of the [...] Gobelins reported by EE [...] as missing. A decisive reason for this is the difference between the dimensions of this tapestry (205 x 201 cm) and those of the Gobelins specified by EE [...] after the war ([…]). In addition to the difference in dimensions, there is also a clear difference in shape. The Gobelins referred to in the [post-war correspondence] are rectangular whereas the tapestry in the Town Museum is nearly square.
It cannot be excluded that EE was mistaken about the dimensions [...]. But the Committee does not consider this to be likely. The Committee points out that [in later documents] EE quoted the same dimensions as in a previous letter [...]. The difference in shape also contributes to the improbability that EE was mistaken.
There are furthermore no connections between the currently known provenance of the tapestry and EE. The Committee moreover does not consider it part of its task in this case to give an opinion about the tapestry’s provenance.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science to reject AA’s application for restitution.
Adopted at the meeting of 7 March 2016 by W.J.M. Davids (Chairman), J.T.M. Bank, R. Herrmann, P.J.N. van Os, E.J. van Straaten, H.M. Verrijn Stuart and I.C. van der Vlies (Vice-Chair) and signed by the Chairman and the Secretary.
(W.J.M. Davids, Chairman) (R.A.M. Nachbahr, Secretary)