The Thames (1885), an early work by the important Dutch artist Jan Toorop (1858-1928) was sold to the G.J. Nieuwenhuizen Segaar gallery in The Hague by the owner, Ernst Flersheim (1862-1944), who was a friend of the artist and owned several of his works. Flersheim was a German Jew who had fled to the Netherlands in March 1937, and the transaction took place shortly afterwards. The painting was in London at the time and was sent to the Netherlands after the sale. It was then bought from the dealer by Museum Boijmans together with a painting by Bart van der Leck. The dealer paid Flersheim 3,500 guilders for the picture, and the museum paid 6,000 guilders for the two works. The museum then insured the Toorop for 5,000 guilders.
The Thames was one of the first modern art works to be bought by Museum Boijmans. It is an important early painting by Toorop and was regularly displayed as part of the permanent collection.
In 2005 the heirs of Ernst Flersheim, the City of Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen decided jointly to apply for a binding recommendation by the Advisory Committee on the Assessment for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War (the Restitutions Committee) regarding the dispute between the city and the heirs of Ernst Flersheim over Toorop’s The Thames
The Restitutions Committee gave its advice on 12 March 2008. The committee noted that the owner sold the work as a result of circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. It also judged that neither Museum Boijmans nor the City of Rotterdam had acted carelessly over the sale.
The committee’s binding recommendation reads as follows. ‘The City of Rotterdam is obliged to restore the painting The Thames to the heirs of Ernst Flersheim on receipt of a sum of € 30,397.50 from those heirs.’
The price of more than € 30,000 arrived at by the committee is the indexed price for which Flersheim sold the work in 1937. It bears no relation to the present market value of the work, which is many times greater.
The Restitutions Committee arrived at its recommendation after considering all the facts of the case. All the parties involved were pleased that the long-running affair had been settled. After deliberating on the matter the City of Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen returned the painting at the beginning of 2009 to Mr Flersheim’s heirs: Mr Walter A. Eberstadt of New York and his sister, Mrs 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