Jacobson-Granaat II

God Appears to Abraham at Shechem by C.N. Moeyaert (NK3401)

Recommendation regarding Jacobson-Granaat II

Recommendation number: 
RC 1.155
Type: 
NK collection
Publishing date: 
29 June 2016
Private owner/art dealer: 
Private individual
Location of loss: 
The Netherlands

In a letter dated 8 May 2015 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 for restitution of 10 March 2015 from XX (hereinafter referred to as the Applicant) for restitution of a winter scene by J. Griffier I and the painting God Appears to Abraham at Shechem by C.N. Moeyaert. Both works are part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (hereinafter referred to as the NK collection). The painting by Griffier I is registered under number NK 2121, but is missing. The work by Moeyaert is registered under number NK 3401 and is currently in the custody of Stichting Museum Catharijneconvent.


Assessment framework

Pursuant to article 2, paragraph 1, of the Decree Establishing the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War, as amended, there is a Committee that is tasked with advising the Minister at the Minister’s request about decisions to be taken regarding applications for the restitution of items of cultural value whose original owner involuntarily lost possession due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime and which are:
a. part of the NK collection or
b. among the other holdings of the Dutch State.
Pursuant to paragraph 4, the Committee advises about applications as referred to in paragraph 1, under a, submitted to the Minister before 30 June 2015 with due regard for government policy in this respect.


The procedure

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 a draft investigation report dated 14 September 2015. The Applicant responded to it by email of 2 December 2015. As a result of this response the Committee conducted additional research, the findings of which are recorded in a Note dated 17 December 2015, which was sent to the Applicant. The Applicant’s response of 2 December 2015 and the Note of 17 December 2015 are appended to the final investigation report. The Applicant did not make use of the opportunity given to her to respond to the Note. The investigation report was subsequently adopted on 29 June 2016.

Considerations

  1. The Applicant is requesting restitution of NK 2121 in her capacity as heir of her great-aunt Rosa Jacobson-Granaat (1888-1944). She is requesting restitution of NK 3401 in her capacity as heir of her grandfather Siegfried Granaat (1891- ?). The Committee has no reason to doubt the Applicant’s status. In this procedure the Applicant has also stated that she is acting on behalf of her sister YY.
  2. Siegfried Granaat and Rosa Jacobson-Granaat were the children of David Granaat (1855‑1928) and Deborah Polak (1868-1915). David Granaat owned a diamond factory in Amsterdam. Rosa Granaat married Abraham Simeon Jacobson (1879-1944), an ear, nose and throat doctor and one of the founders of the CIZ (central Jewish nursing home) in Jacob Obrechtstraat in Amsterdam. During the war the Granaats lived at Minervalaan 88 II. On 3 September 1944 they were deported via Westerbork to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Siegfried Granaat fled to England in 1940. The occupying forces appointed a Verwalter (administrator) to manage his assets.
  3. In her letter to the Minister of 10 March 2015 the Applicant writes that for some time she and her sister have been searching for the large art collection that their grandfather Siegfried Granaat and his sister Rosa Jacobson-Granaat possessed. In 2006 in case RC 1.22 the Committee recommended that the painting Family Portrait by J.M. Quinckhard should be restituted to the heirs of Rosa Jacobson-Granaat. The Applicant writes that with help from the Origins Unknown Agency (hereinafter referred to as BHG) she tracked down more paintings from the collection of her grandfather and great-aunt, including NK 2121 and NK 3401.

    NK 2121

  4. NK 2121 is a winter landscape by J. Griffier I. The painting, which is oil on canvas and signed, measures 28 x 43cm. In 1973 the work was stolen from the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, where it was being held at the time, and has been missing ever since. The provenance prepared by BHG for the work begins on 30 June 1936, when it was auctioned at Frederik Muller in Amsterdam. At that time BHG places the work in the collection of C.W.A. Buma in Marssum. On that date BHG also mentions the name ‘Jacobson’ with the comment: ‘No information was found about this painting in the files of the SNK (Netherlands Art Property Foundation) under the name Jacobson’. The next entry in the provenance relates to 1942, when the work once again came under the hammer at Frederik Muller. It is not known who put it into the sale. The work was purchased at this sale by the Goudstikker/Miedl gallery in Amsterdam, which sold it to C. Becker of Cologne on 8 November 1943.
  5. As stated in BHG’s provenance, NK 2121 was put into a sale at Frederik Muller of Amsterdam in 1936. The sale catalogue describes this painting as follows.
    [Mak.]                   746 JAN GRIFFIER - Paysage d’hiver avec rivière prise par la glace,
    [Jacobson]            où se divertissent des patineurs, et traversée par un pont en pierre A gauche une 
                                habitation rustique, sur la rive droite des groupes de maisons avec tour d’église. - 
                                Signé. - Toile. - Haut. 28, larg. 34 cent.
    [100.-]  
                               A été exposé à titre de prêt au Musée Boymans à Rotterdam.

    The words shown in square brackets are notes that were written in the catalogue later in pen or pencil. They indicate that the painting was sold for 100 guilders to ‘Mak. Jacobson’.

  6. This gives rise to the question of who the note ‘Mak. Jacobson’ refers to. The note ‘Mak. Jacobson’ occurs a second time on the same page as the work by Griffier alongside a painting by R. Nooms. A similar note, ‘Mak. Brandt’, was made next to a painting by J. van Kessel. This last note most probably refers to Paul Brandt, a well-known art and antiques appraiser and dealer. If that is so, it suggests that ‘Mak. Jacobson’ means makelaar (dealer) Jacobson. A dealer called Nehemia Jacobson was in business in Amsterdam in 1936, and his field of activity included art and antiques.
  7. There are no indications that link NK 2121 to the name Jacobson apart from the aforementioned note in the sale catalogue. The administrator who was appointed after the war to manage the absent Granaats’ possessions corresponded with the SNK about the loss of various artworks from the couple’s collection. The painting by Griffier I is not referred to in this correspondence.
    Abraham Simeon Jacobson was a doctor. The Committee therefore deems it unlikely that he was denoted as ‘Mak. Jacobson’. This note is most probably a reference to the dealer Nehemia Jacobson.
  8. Pursuant to the restitution policy that applies to this claim, restitution can be recommended if the ownership rights have been established as being very plausible and there are no indications to the contrary. On the grounds of the foregoing the Committee takes the view that this requirement has not been met with regard to the request for the restitution of NK 2121. The Committee will therefore advise the Minister to reject the Applicant’s claim to NK 2121.

    NK 3401

  9. NK 3401 is large painting by C.N. Moeyaert. The work, entitled God Appears to Abraham at Shechem, is oil on canvas with dimensions 102 x 168 cm. The painting is signed and dated 1628.
    The provenance compiled by BHG contends that between 1911 and 1936 the work was part of the collection of D.S. (David) Granaat of Amsterdam. Between 18 June 1936 and 28 May 1941 the BHG places the picture with ‘H. Hamburger (art gallery)’ of Paris with the comment: ‘On 18 June 1936 this painting was given to S. Granaat by H. Hamburger for safekeeping’. This is a reference to Siegfried Granaat. In 1941 the work ended up, through Eduard Plietzsch, an employee of the Dienststelle Mühlmann (Mühlmann Agency), in the collection of the Führer Museum to be established in Linz.
  10. As stated in BHG’s provenance, NK 3401 was originally part of the collection of David Granaat and later that of his son Siegfried Granaat. The latter owned a considerable amount of property, including 579 Herengracht, where the bank Hamburger & Co’s Bankierskantoor was located, and 512 Herengracht. The latter was also his residence.
    Documents relating to the ownership situation of NK 3401 were found in the file opened by the Abteilung Feindvermögen (Enemy Assets Department) of the Generalkommissariat für Finanz und Justiz (General Commissariat for Finance and Justice) during the Nazi occupation concerning management of Siegfried Granaat’s assets. The following is relevant to the assessment of the Applicant’s claim.
  11. On 20 May 1930 Siegfried Granaat and Hamburger & Co’s Bankierskantoor recorded in a registered private instrument that the bank purchased a group of artworks from Granaat with a value of NLG 230,515. The said artworks are described in a list attached to the instrument. Under that instrument the items were subsequently given by the bank for safekeeping to Granaat, who acknowledged receipt of them for safekeeping subject, among other things, to the obligation to return the items to the bank as and when the bank requested. Granaat was credited by the bank with the aforementioned sum. He was also entitled to buy back the goods within a year, provided that he paid the bank the price in cash. The bank was entitled to oblige Granaat to buy back all or some of the goods at the price the bank paid for them. If Granaat was unable to fulfil this obligation, the bank was entitled without judicial intervention to have the artworks auctioned off or sold privately.
    A work by Moeyaert is mentioned under the heading ‘Paintings in the dining room’ on the fifth page of the list, signed by Granaat and the bank, attached to the instrument as:
    C. Moeyaert. Biblical scene.  [f.] 9.000,--

    On 29 December 1930 the bank and Granaat entered into a similar agreement with regard to a number of other artworks.
  12. In a letter dated 11 May 1936 from Siegfried Granaat to Hamburger & Co’s Bankierskantoor N.V. the former confirmed that the bank has written the following to him on 11 May 1936.
    Pursuant to article 5 of the undertaking between you and us entered into by you on 20 May 1930 and 29 December 1930, we request you to buy back from us the works of art we purchased from you in accordance with those agreements for the prices referred to in article 1 of the aforementioned agreements no later than 18 May next, the total amount of the prices being f. 230,515.-- and f. 40,305.00, or a total of f. 270,820.--, in cash, that is to be paid to us on the aforesaid 18 May next at the latest in return for the delivery of the aforementioned works of art. In the absence of this payment, pursuant to the provisions of article 6 of the agreements referred to several times in the foregoing we will have to sell the aforementioned works of art.

    In that same letter he responded to this as follows.
    To my regret I have to inform you that I am unable to pay either before or after the date of 18 May next referred to in your letter the amount due to you for buying back and paying for the works of art you refer to.
  13. It emerges from a letter from Granaat to the bank of 18 June 1936 that the notification from Granaat to the bank that he was not able to buy back the works of art he had previously sold, including NK 3401, resulted in their sale by the bank to Herman Hamburger. In this letter Granaat refers to a letter from the bank to him of the same date.
    Further to our letter of 11 May last, we advise you herewith that the works of art etc. in question and referred to on the enclosed lists signed by us have been sold by us to Mr Herman Hamburger, Paris, 121 Avenue de Wagram, from a combined sum of f. -67,000.-. (…)

    In his letter Granaat furthermore stated that he concurred with the content of the bank’s letter. The SNK’s management file about Gustaaf Hamburger was found to contain copies of a few inventories with the heading ‘belonging to the statement of 18 June 1936 by the undersigned’, which probably refers to the aforementioned statement by Siegfried Granaat. According to the copy the list was originally signed by Siegfried Granaat.
    At the top of the first list there is the following note written in pencil: ‘issued on 24-10-49 by Mr Somers Dir Hamburger & Co’s Bankierskantoor’. At the top of each page it is moreover stated that the inventory concerns ‘the works of art etc. that are in the property at 512 Heerengracht, Amsterdam, and which are being kept there in custody by the undersigned according to the aforementioned statement for Mr Herman Hamburger, Paris, 121 Avenue de Wagram’.
    On the third page of the list, under the heading ‘Paintings in the dining room, the works identified include still lifes by De Heem and Kalf as well as ‘C. Mooyaert. Biblical scene’.

  14. It can be deduced from the course of events outlined above that Siegfried Granaat sold NK 3401 to the bank in 1930. When Granaat was not able to buy back the painting in 1936, the bank sold it to Herman Hamburger. The painting was then held by Siegfried Granaat in safekeeping for Herman Hamburger at 512 Herengracht.
    It can be deduced from a report dated 19 February 1941 by C.H. Oldach, who had been appointed as administrator of Siegfried Granaat’s assets, that this situation remained unchanged until the beginning of the occupation. The report was addressed to the Generalreferat Feindvermögen of the Generalkommissariat für Finanz und Wirtschaft (General Section of the Enemy Assets Department of the General Commissariat for Finance and Economics) and was based on the documents referred to in considerations 11 to 13. Oldach reported that the circumstances connected with Herman Hamburger’s claim had been carefully investigated and he enclosed a list of all the household effects that were at 512 Herengracht. This list was prepared by the estate agent Jac. Leefson Jzn. of Amsterdam on the instructions of the primary creditor. NK 3401 is included in the list of artworks that belonged to Herman Hamburger.
  15. After Oldach had contacted the Mühlmann Agency at the request of the Enemy Assets Department, on 12 May 1941 an employee of that agency, Dr Eduard Plietzsch, came to see the artworks at 512 Herengracht. In a letter of 14 May 1941 he specified ten paintings among the possessions of Herman Hamburger that he was interested in. Among them was the painting now known as NK 3401. In the end this work was sold by the Mühlmann Agency to Hitler for 13,270 reichsmarks.
  16. In her response of 2 December 2015 the Applicant stated that she thought it strange that NK 3401 was supposedly sold by Siegfried Granaat but subsequently remained in his home. She also points out that the draft investigation report contains discrepancies in so far as on the one hand it discusses the property and other possessions of Granaat and on the other hand Granaat’s debts to the bank, among others. Finally she notes that the ‘Granaat collection’ was still being talked about after the war.
    As a result of this reaction the Committee conducted further research into Siegfried Granaat’s financial position. This additional investigation revealed that while Granaat had substantial possessions, he was in debt to various enterprises for even greater sums. The origin of these debts was probably Siegfried Granaat’s acceptance of the estate of his father D.S. Granaat, who had died in 1928, the shares that there were in this estate, and the 1929 stock market crash that occurred shortly afterwards and which heralded a period of economic crisis. It can be deduced from various documents that were found that in 1939 Granaat’s three major creditors made agreements about liquidating his debt position.
  17. Granaat’s sale on 20 May 1930 of a part of the art collection to the bank, including NK 3401, is completely consistent with the picture that has emerged from the additional investigation into Siegfried Granaat’s awkward financial situation. In 1936 Granaat decided not to buy back NK 3401. From that moment he held the painting at his residence at 512 Herengracht in safekeeping for Herman Hamburger.
    Since Granaat sold the claimed NK 3401 in 1930 and since there are no indications that he subsequently acquired ownership of it again, the Applicant’s claim cannot be eligible for granting on the grounds of restitution policy applicable to this case. The Committee will therefore advise the Minister to reject the Applicant’s claim to NK 3401. 

Conclusion

The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science to reject the Applicant’s claim to NK 2121 and NK 3401.

Adopted at the meeting on 29 June 2016 by W.J.M. Davids (Chairman), J.T.M. Bank, R. Herrmann, P.J.N. van Os, E.J. van Straaten, 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)

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