March 4, 2021

Dutch museums recognize the plundering of 170 works | Culture

Dutch museums recognize the plundering of 170 works | Culture



The Dutch Association of Museums estimates that 42 art centers in the country keep 170 paintings, drawings, sculptures and all kinds of artistic objects allegedly stolen from Jews before or during World War II. The figure is the result of investigations initiated by the wards themselves, which have drawn up an inventory with their acquisitions between 1933 and 1955, and thereafter. The list includes pieces of "recognized value" and will facilitate the return to their legitimate owners, many of whom perished in the concentration camps. The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the Municipal Museum (Stedelijk) appear among those with art of dark origin.

One of the most important doubtful pictures identified to date is Salomé with the head of Juan Bautista, by Jan Adam Kruseman, in the collection of the Rijksmuseum. The center continues to track its funds in search of others who may have arrived without due guarantees. The lamentation over the dead Christ, by Hans Memling, from the Boymans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam, also appears. Those responsible "have terminated, for now, the revision of their collection," according spokespersons of the Association of Museums. In the Stedelijk they have the work in the same conditions Watercolor 2, of Kandinsky.

Delicate work

France, Austria, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have searched since 1998 for stolen, confiscated or purchased art under threat by the Nazis from collectors and Jewish dealers. It is a delicate task for the national network of museums, because these are funds that have been included in their collections for decades and that must be revised downwards. Many came through auctions or purchases from private collectors, who perhaps ignored the tragic fate of the owners. In other cases, the documentation was simply not reviewed. Hence, in the list of the Association of Museums, published on its website, there are also Jewish ritual objects, such as funerary bowls, prayer belts or candelabra from Dutch homes. Therefore, "the list will remain open until necessary".

Works acquired before 1933 or executed after 1945 are not part of the investigations. In addition to museums, the first phase of the search includes private archives, purchase records and yearbooks: all documents that can certify an acquisition, and the memory of former employees of the different rooms. The labels, stamps, inscriptions and numbers of the auctions also help. In the second phase, it is necessary to confirm that the sale was forced, and the Commission for Restitution, which has historians and is included in the Institute for the Investigation of War, the Holocaust and Genocide, participates.

Since 2000, there has been a Committee of Restitutions in the Netherlands that examines the complaints filed by the families of the original owners. This committee has already returned some 460 works and the Museums Association hopes to contribute to clearing new doubts by keeping the list "fresh". In 2003, one of the open investigations reached the Casa de Orange itself. Queen Juliana, grandmother of the current king, William, bought the cloth in 1960 The Hague forest with views of the Huis ten Bosch palace, of Joris van der Haagen, to a dealer, but he did not know where he came from. The artist is one of the leading firms of the Dutch Golden Age, and Guillermo decided to return it when it was certified that it had been stolen by the Nazis.

The refunds have also generated controversy because not all the heirs have been formed. In 2017, for example, six members of the family of Franz Koenigs, a Dutch nationalized German banker, asked the judges to return 11 drawings and 11 albums with hundreds of illustrations of old masters, from Fra Bartolomeo to Rembrandt. They are kept by the Boijmans van Beuningen museum, which bought the Koenigs legacy in 1940, shortly before the Nazi invasion, and considers them theirs. The courts ruled in favor of the center because they considered that the relatives supported their claim in assumptions and not in facts.

The art auction restored

The case of the family of Jacques Goudstikker, the most famous dealer in Holland, was sounded. He had works by 30 old masters, the favorite ones of the Nazis, who ransacked their offices. He died of a fall while escaping on a ship crossing the English Channel, and his family, who emigrated to the United States, fought since the end of World War II to recover the treasure. He got his daughter-in-law, Marei von Saher, in 2006. However, he could not celebrate the victory. After decades of litigation, he had run out of funds to pay his lawyers. In 2007, and to the surprise of the Dutch Government, which closed a case of international repercussion, Marei auctioned half of what was recovered. The criticism did not wait, because she never mentioned that the high minutes of their representatives forced her to sell.

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