Faith in God, which was made in Westcapelle in 1907, is a coloured drawing by the major Dutch artist Jan Toorop (1858-1928) which was acquired by the museum in 1943 as a gift from two members of the board of trustees of the museum foundation. It was bought from the Hague art dealer Herman d’Audretsch, who had acquired it from a German dealer after the German occupying forces had confiscated the belongings in 1942 of Ernst Flersheim (1862- 1944), a German Jew who had fled to the Netherlands in March 1937. Flersheim had been a friend of Toorop’s since 1905 and owned several of his works. In 1943 he and his wife were rounded up in a raid and sent to the Westerbork transit camp.
In 1954 the board of the museum foundation had dismissed an initial claim to the drawing by the heirs of Ernst Flersheim, and the same happened to a renewed claim in 1999. It was only after a long tussle that the foundation finally returned the drawing to the heir Walter Eberstadt after receipt of 2,000 guilders, which was probably the sum that the two donors had paid for it in 1943. That sum bears no relation to the present market value of the work, which is many times greater.
The Flersheim heirs claimed not only Faith in God but also Jan Toorop’s painting The Thames, which was restituted in early 2009 to the heirs Walter Eberstadt of New York and his sister A.J. Collier-Eberstadt of London.
The museum has documented the history of these two works of art in detail and has had them researched by Anita Hopmans, Chief Curator of Modern Art at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD).
Her research findings were published in the report Disputed Ownership. On the Provenance of Two Works by Jan Toorop in the Boymans Museum: the Painting Titled The Thames (1885) and the Drawing Known as Faith in God (Godsvertrouwen) (1907), December 2006. [PDF, 1,3MB]
A. Hopmans, Verwerving en restitutie: de zaak Toorop / Acquisition and Restitution: the Toorop Case, Rotterdam (Boijmans Studies) 2008.
Translation: Michael Hoyle