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In 2000, acting on its own volition, the City of Rotterdam returned two drawings, Tomb of a King and Entrance to a Mosque by the Dutch Orientalist artist Marius Bauer (1867-1932), to the rightful heirs.
In 1998 the city had asked the historian Dr A.J. Bonke to carry out archival research into the provenance of the acquisitions made by the city’s museums in the period 1940 to 1948 in the framework of the Museum Acquisitions 1940-1948 research project organised by the Netherlands Museums Association (NMV).
The city’s policy is that works of art that were unlawfully removed from the possession of Jewish owners during the Second World War and entered municipal museums should be returned to the rightful owner or heir in accordance with the criterion of ‘minimum reasonable doubt’. These were works of art to which the original owner had lost title during the war as a result of forced sale or theft.
After completing his research in 1998 Bonke came to the conclusion that the Dutch archives could not resolve the issue of provenance in every case. In addition, the research had not yet established the identity of the rightful heirs to the Bauer drawings.
The provenance research established that the works of art were purchased in 1943 by Dr D. Hannema, director of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen at the time, from Eduard Plietzsch of the Dienststelle Mühlmann, together with a watercolour by George Hendrik Breitner and a painting by Nicolaas van der Waay. The back of one of the Bauer drawings was inscribed ‘Verz. Mevr. D. Ornstein Rafaelplein 21, Amsterdam (Z)’ (Collection of Mrs D. Ornstein, Rafaelplein 21, Amsterdam (South]).
The search for the heirs continued in the Central Bureau for Genealogy in The Hague and in the Amsterdam register of births, deaths and marriages. This led to the identification of the four heirs. On 20 July 2000 the Burgomaster and Aldermen of Rotterdam decided to restitute the works of art to them. On 8 August of that year they were handed over to the executor of the heirs of Mrs F.S.B. Ornstein.
Translation: Michael Hoyle