14 March 2008
Restitution of the painting The Thames at London by Jan Toorop
On 12 March 2008 the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War issued its binding advice on a dispute between Rotterdam Municipal Council and the heirs of Ernst Flersheim (1862-1944) concerning Jan Toorop’s painting The Thames at London (1885). The Committee ruled that Flersheim sold the painting as a result of circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. The Committee also stated that neither Museum Boymans nor Rotterdam Municipal Council was negligible with respect to the purchase of the painting in 1937.
The Committee’s binding advice reads:
‘Rotterdam Municipal Council is required to return the painting Thames at London by Jan Toorop to the heirs of its former owner, upon payment of €30,397.50.’
The Thames at London, an early work by the important Dutch artist Jan Toorop (1858-1928), was sold in 1937 by its then owner Ernst Flersheim – who was befriended with the artist and who possessed various works by him – to Kunsthandel G.J. Nieuwenhuizen Segaar in The Hague. As a German Jew, Flersheim had fled to the Netherlands in March 1937. The transaction between Flersheim and Nieuwenhuizen Segaar took place shortly thereafter. The painting was then in London and was shipped to the Netherlands following the sale. Museum Boijmans purchased the painting from Kunsthandel G.J. Nieuwenhuizen Segaar together with a painting by Bart van der Leck. Flersheim received 3,500.00 Dutch guilders from the dealer; the museum paid a total sum of 6,000.00 Dutch guilders for the two paintings by Toorop and Van der Leck. Upon purchase, the Toorop painting was insured by the museum for 5,000.00 Dutch guilders.
The Thames at London was one of Museum Boijmans’ first acquisitions in the area of modern art. The work is considered an important early painting by the artist and has frequently been displayed in presentations of the collection. The painting will be returned to Flersheim’s heirs, Mr. Walter A. Eberstadt of New York City and his sister Mrs James Collier of London, England, at the beginning of April. Until then it is on display in the museum as part of The Collection One.
The sum of €30,397.50 fixed by the Committee is the indexed figure for the amount paid to Flersheim in 1937; this sum is much lower than the work’s current market value.
The museum has researched and exhaustively documented the history of this painting. The results of the research carried out by Anita Hopmans, chief curator of modern art at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), have been published. Within a few months, this article and the binding advice of the Restitutions Committee will be published as part of the museum’s series entitled ‘Boijmans Studies’.
In 2005 Ernst Flersheim’s heirs and Rotterdam Municipal Council/Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen jointly requested a binding advice from the Restitutions Committee. After considerable deliberation, the Committee has reached the abovementioned conclusion. All parties concerned are pleased that clarity has now been reached in this longstanding affair. Rotterdam Municipal Council and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen congratulate Mr Flersheim’s heirs on the outcome. The museum’s director, Sjarel Ex, visited Mr Flersheim’s grandson W. Eberstadt earlier this year in New York, and contacted him on 12 March directly after the announcement to assure him that the painting will be returned to him shortly.
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