"PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN WITH A LITTLE DOG" (NK 2181) AND "VIEW OF BINNEN-AMSTEL AND THE BLAUWBRUG " (NK 2115)
In his letter dated 2 April 2002, the State secretary asked the committee for advice on the application for the restitution of the paintings "Portrait of a woman with a little dog" (NK 2181) and "View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug" (NK 2115) that had formerly been in the possession of the H. family. This was based on an application for restitution by the H. heirs to the State secretary for OCenW dated 7 February 2002.
Summary of documentary report
Until the war, both "Portrait of a woman with a little dog" and "View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug" had been part of the very extensive collection of the Jewish H. family. This ownership was evidenced by various recovered lists and documents. When war broke out, the family stored the collection in a safe before managing to flee to Switzerland. During the war, in 1943, the safe was broken open, by order of the occupying forces. The individual works of art, 126 in number, then found their way into the hands of various buyers at home and abroad. These events are documented in a protocol (and in other documents) that was drawn up when the safe was broken open during the war.
After the war, both paintings, together with five other works from the H. collection, were recovered in Germany and returned to the Netherlands. After the war, the original owners of the collection, Mr. and Mrs. H., submitted an application for the restoration of rights. However, the family felt that the conditions imposed on them for the restitution of the paintings were unacceptable. These conditions consisted of payment to the SNK of the cash sum that appeared to have been credited to an account at the Liro-bank held in the H. family's name for the resale of the paintings during the war, plus the repayment of the administration costs for the recovery.
Of the total of seven works recovered after the war that had been owned by the H. family, five were auctioned off by the Dutch State in the 1950s. Since that time, the two paintings to which the application related had been part of the Dutch national art collection. However, during the investigation it was discovered that one of the two paintings, "View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug ", could not be found. According to information from the painting's borrower, the Ministry of Defence, the painting had disappeared during the period 1996-2001 under circumstances that are still unclear. The administrator of the NK collection, the ICN, believes that there is only a very small chance that this work can still be recovered.
In its advice, decided on during the meeting on 23 September 2002, the committee recommanded that the painting "Portrait of a woman with a little dog" (NK 2181) should be returned to the heirs of Mr. J. H. In respect of the "View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug " (NK 2115), it recommended that the heirs of Mrs. L. H.-W. be compensated.
The Restitutions Committee's first consideration in reaching the above conclusion was that the H. family could be deemed to be the owner of both paintings. The committee also deemed the loss of possession during the war to be involuntary. The changed insights regarding the financial conditions imposed on the restitution after the war should in this case be seen as new facts within the context of the current restitution policy, which meant that in principle the application for restitution could be granted. However, should the painting "View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug" prove untraceable, so that no actual restitution could take place, the committee felt that compensation should be paid. Since it could not be proven that the owner had at any time received the sales proceeds, in the committee's opinion there could be no question of demanding repayment of the proceeds.
By means of his letter dated 26 November 2002, the State secretary reported to the Restitutions Committee that he would adopt its advice in respect of the painting "Portrait of a woman with a little dog" (NK 2181). In respect of "View of Binnen-Amstel and the Blauwbrug" (NK 2115), the State secretary informed the committee that he felt further policy rules should be instated before making his decision. So far, this decision has been adjourned.
After an article on the case in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper on 2 December 2002, the committee received information on the possible location of the painting, but this did not lead to the recovery of the painting. The Restitutions Committee does not know whether the painting has now been traced or whether it must be definitively deemed to be lost.