Painting View in the Woods in the Winter
Recommendation regarding the painting View in the Woods in the Winter
In a letter dated 24 January 2019, 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 the restitution of the painting View in the Woods in the Winter by Johann Bernard Klombeck and Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven (hereinafter referred to as the claimed painting). This restitution application was submitted to the Minister on 21 November 2018 by AA of BB (hereinafter referred to as the Applicant). The Applicant contends that the claimed painting was among the possessions of his grandfather Mozes (Marcel) Wolf, who had to part with a large collection of paintings during the Second World War in order to survive. The claimed painting is currently part of the Dutch National Art Collection. In this case the Minister is represented by CC, movable heritage and Dutch National Art Collection consultant with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (hereinafter referred to as the RCE).
In response to the Minister's request for advice, in a letter of 2 April 2019 the Committee asked the Restitution Expertise Centre of the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (hereinafter referred to as the Expertise Centre) to start an investigation into the facts. The Expertise Centre sent the Applicant and the RCE a draft investigation report, giving them the opportunity to make known any corrections, additions and comments. The Applicant responded in an email of 4 December 2019, and the RCE responded in an email of 9 December 2019. The Expertise Centre sent the Committee the final investigation report with a letter of 17 January 2020. The Committee gave the Applicant and the RCE the opportunity to respond to the investigation report. The RCE let it be known in an email of 20 February 2020 that it had no need for a hearing.
In this case Dr J.F. Cohen assisted the Committee as an advisor.
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 5, the Committee advises with regard to applications as referred to in paragraph 1, under b, on the basis of the yardsticks of reasonableness and fairness.
Pursuant to paragraph 7, the Committee is entitled to ask the Expertise Centre to initiate an investigation into the facts.
1. The Committee established the relevant facts on the grounds of the investigation report of 17 January 2020. The following summary is sufficient here. The first issue to be discussed is what is known about the Applicant’s grandfather, Mozes (Marcel) Wolf, who lost possession of various works of art during the Second World War. The provenance of the currently claimed painting is then addressed. Finally there is an analysis of what is known about the former Meijer Wolff gallery in Amsterdam, which plays a role in the provenance of the currently claimed painting.
Mozes (Marcel) Wolf
2. The Applicant is the grandson of Mozes Wolf (1894-1978), who called himself Marcel. Wolf was of Jewish descent and lived in The Hague. During the German occupation, Marcel Wolf’s assets were placed under the management of a German administrator, or Verwalter. After the war, Wolf registered the loss of various items from among his possessions with the Netherlands Art Property Foundation (hereinafter referred to as the SNK). It can be concluded from the declaration forms signed by Wolf and the other documentation in the SNK management file on Wolf that Wolf registered the loss of a total of 22 paintings with the SNK. The currently claimed painting is not among them. During the occupation a valuation report was prepared that lists the goods that were in Wolf’s residence at Adriaan Goekooplaan 5-7 in The Hague. In addition to the aforementioned 22 paintings, the items listed in the report included several paintings regarding which no SNK declaration forms were found. The currently claimed painting is not referred to in this valuation report.
It emerges from the SNK files that ultimately only two of the 22 paintings registered by Wolf with the SNK were returned to the Netherlands by the SNK. In the end, these two paintings, Winter Landscape by Aert van der Neer and Pyrrhus by Ferdinand Bol, were returned to Marcel Wolf in 1956 after various proceedings in the Council for the Restoration of Rights and consultation with the Dutch government.
The Currently Claimed Painting
3. The currently claimed painting is of a winter scene, oil on canvas, by Johann Bernard Klombeck and Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven. Its dimensions are 91 x 125.5 cm, and it is signed and dated 1863. The painting has been part of the Dutch National Art Collection since 1950 and is presently in the Dutch Ministry of Defence in The Hague.
The investigation conducted by the Expertise Centre has made the following clear about the currently claimed painting. The painting belonged to Cornelis Everhardus Frederik Beversen (1859-1922), whose positions included deputy director and member of the supervisory board of the Amstel Brewery (Bouwerij De Amstel) in Amsterdam. He received the painting in 1921 as a gift from this brewery. This emerges from a plate on the back of the painting bearing the following text: ‘Aangeboden aan den heer C.E.F. Beversen door de Amstelbrouwerij 1874-1921’ [‘Presented to Mr C.E.F. Beversen by the Amstel Brewery 1874-1921’]. Beversen died in 1922. Shortly before her death in 1948, his widow Zwanette Beversen-Siemons (1870-1948) donated the painting to the Rijksmuseum, as emerges from a letter from Beversen-Siemons to this museum of 12 October 1948. The Rijksmuseum’s 1948 annual report refers to this donation. There are no indications that this painting was not in the possession of Beversen-Siemons during the 1922-1948 period. In 1950 the painting was handed over to the Department for Dispersed Government Artworks, a forerunner of the RCE.
4. The currently claimed painting is referred to on the Museum Acquisitions since 1933 website. This website contains images of works of art that are suspected of having been stolen, confiscated or sold under duress between 1933 and 1945. The website gives the following provenance:
‘- Reconstructie herkomst
? 1910 <>? 1940
Mogelijk: M. Wolff (kunsthandel), Amsterdam
? <> 1948-11
Zwanette Beversen-Siemons (collectie), Soestdijk
Schenking aan het Rijksmuseum door Z. Beversen-Siemons
1948-11 <> 1950
Overdracht naar Dienst voor 's Rijks Verspreide Kunstvoorwerpen, Den Haag, van Rijksmuseum
1950 <> heden
Rijksdienst Cultureel Erfgoed, Amersfoort’
? 1910 <>? 1940
Possibly: M. Wolff (gallery), Amsterdam
? <> 1948-11
Zwanette Beversen-Siemons (collection), Soestdijk
Rijksmuseum Inventory Book
Donation to the Rijksmuseum by Z. Beversen-Siemons
Rijksmuseum Inventory Book
1948-11 <> 1950
Rijksmuseum Inventory Book
Transferred to the Department for Dispersed Government Artworks, The Hague, by the Rijksmuseum
1950 <> present
Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, Amersfoort’]
M. Wolff Gallery, Amsterdam
5. The aforementioned provenance on the Museum Acquisitions website gives ‘M. Wolff (kunsthandel), Amsterdam’ [‘M. Wolff (gallery), Amsterdam’] as the possible provenance between 1910 and 1940. The website concludes: ‘De herkomst van dit schilderij is niet helder, omdat de kunsthandel M. Wolff dit schilderij mogelijk in bezit heeft gehad en tijdens de oorlog in moeilijkheden is gekomen. Deze kunsthandel had een joodse eigenaar.’ [‘The provenance of this painting is uncertain because the M. Wolff gallery might have possessed this painting and ran into difficulties during the war. This gallery had a Jewish owner.’ ]
The ‘M. Wolff’ gallery referred to in this provenance is the art gallery established by Meijer Wolff (1878-1947) on Rokin in Amsterdam. After 1935 this concern was run as a one-man business by his son Jacob (Jaap) Wolff, who died on 15 February 1940. Neither of them was a relative of the Marcel Wolf mentioned above. The gallery went out of business after the death of Jaap Wolff. It is stated on the website of the RKD Netherlands Institute for Art History (hereinafter referred to as the RKD) that the ‘M. Wolff’ gallery was active during the 1910-1940 period.
There is a note ‘ksth Wolff Amsterdam’ [‘Wolff gallery Amsterdam’] on a photograph card in the RKD of the currently claimed painting. There is a note ‘Ksth.M. Wolff, Amsterdam’ [‘M. Wolff gallery, Amsterdam’] on another photograph card. Neither note is dated. It follows from consideration 4, however, that the painting was in Beversen’s possession from 1921 and, after his death in 1922 until the donation to the Rijksmuseum in 1948, it was in the possession of his widow Beversen-Siemons. That indicates that the provenance of the M. Wolff gallery in Amsterdam has to be placed prior to the acquisition by Beversen in 1921.
Assessment of the Claim
6. The Committee finds there are no indications that the currently claimed painting belonged to the Applicant’s grandfather, Marcel Wolf. The application for restitution is therefore not admissible. It has furthermore emerged from the investigation that the painting was not disposed of during the 1933-1945 period, and so there is no longer any reason to label the painting’s provenance as suspect.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science to reject the application for restitution of the painting View in the Woods in the Winter by Johann Bernard Klombeck and Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven.
Adopted on 16 March 2020 by A. Hammerstein (Chair), S.G. Cohen-Willner, J.H.W. Koster, J.H. van Kreveld, D. Oostinga, E.H. Swaab (Vice-Chair) and C.C. Wesselink, and signed by the Chair and the Secretary.
(A. Hammerstein, Chair) (E.J.A. Idema, Secretary)