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Restitutions, ongoing and settled restitution claims

Over the past two decades various descendants of the former owners of artworks have requested their return.

In some cases the museum took the initiative to contact the heirs of former owners’ in order to seek a binding opinion from the Restitutions Committee. In several instances where it was clear that the loss of property was indeed illegal, the artworks in question have been returned. Below you will find the restitutions and the ongoing and settled restitution claims.

The Restitutions Committee

The Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War (in brief referred to as the Restitutions Committee) in The Hague advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science about individual requests for the return of cultural goods that disappeared during the Second World War in accordance with the liberalized restitution policy. Individual citizens and non-governmental organisations can jointly present cases to this committee for a (binding) recommendation, based upon article 2.2 of the Decree establishing the Restitutions Committee. You can find more information in the Restitution policy and the Annual reports and opinions of the Restitutions Committee.

Ongoing restitution claims

  • 'Girl Writing at a Table' by Max Liebermann
  • Goodman
  • Pringsheim
  • Anonymous, Hodegetria, or Virgin Mary with Child

'Girl Writing at a Table' by Max Liebermann

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen purchased this drawing at an auction at Paul Brandt in Amsterdam on 17 March 1959, at which works from the estate of Max J. Friedländer were offered. It is not known when and from whom the Jewish art historian Max J. Friedländer acquired the drawing. It is, however, highly likely that it came into Friedländer’s possession after the death of the artist, with whom he was befriended, given that there is an estate stamp on the lower left corner of the drawing. The artist’s widow, Martha Liebermann, applied this stamp to artworks that were present in the artist’s studio after his death in February 1935. The Nazis confiscated Liebermann’s art collection following Martha Liebermann’s suicide in 1943. Currently there are no indications that this drawing was part of the confiscated estate of Martha Liebermann.

This drawing is also on the website Museum Acquisitions From 1933 Onwards.

In May 2021 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and The Estate of Max Liebermann jointly requested the Restitution Committee for an investigation and a binding opinion.

'Girl Writing at a Table' by Max Liebermann
Girl Writing at a Table, Max Liebermann, 1890-1895, Purchase 1959.

Hodegetria, or Virgin Mary with Child, by Anonymous

The ivory relief entered the museum with the acquisition of the art collection from the estate of D.G. van Beuningen. It was acquired by D.G. van Beuningen from the art dealer Jacques Goudstikker as ‘ex-coll. Stroganoff’ in 1939. This is probably the Russian art collector Grigoriy Sergeyevich Stroganov (1829-1910). It is not known when and how Goudstikker acquired the work. Research does show that the ivory relief was part of the forced sale of the trading stock of the Jewish firm Kunsthandlung A.S. Drey from Munich. The auction took place at the Berlin auction house Paul Graupe on 17/18 June 1936, where the relief was offered as lot number 96 and it was acquired by an unknown buyer. The auction catalogue by Graupe also refers to an earlier provenance: the collections Strogranoff in Rome and Burns in London. 

In the fall of 2020 the museum submitted the ivory relief to the Restitutions Committee for a binding opinion in consultation with the heirs.

Hodegetria, or Virgin Mary with Child, by Anonymous
Hodegretia, or Virgin Mary with Child, Anonymous, 900-1000, acquired with the collection of D.G. van Beuningen 1958

Restitutions and settled restitution claims

  • Koenigs Collection
  • Two objects from the collection of Emanuel Vita Israël (restitutie 2020)
  • Gosschalk: the painting 'Mountainous Landscape' by Jacob van Geel (2019)
  • Schloss: the painting ‘Still Life with Tulip’ by Dirk van Delen (restitution 1999)
  • Ornstein: the drawings ‘Tomb of a King’ and ‘Entrance to a Mosque’ by Marius Bauer (restitutions 2000)
  • Leefsma: the painting ‘Woman Seated on the Grass at the Edge of a Meadow and Reading’ by Nicolaas van der Waay (restitution 2000)
  • De Vries: the drawing ‘Standing Young Country Woman’ by George Hendrik Breitner (restitution 2001)
  • Flersheim-Eberstadt: the drawing ‘Faith in God’ by Jan Toorop (restitution 2001)
  • Flersheim-Eberstadt: the painting ‘The Thames’ by Jan Toorop (restitution 2009)

Restitution of two objects from the estate of Emanuel Vita Israël

While researching the provenance of the holy water pail and bronze candlestick, the name Vita Israël was discovered on their inventory cards, noted as previous owner. Further research brought forth that this Jewish pharmacist and art collector Emanuel Vita Israël (1873-1940) committed suicide shortly after the German invasion on 15 May 1940. The estate he left behind, of which the holy water pail and candlestick were part, was put up for auction on 7 November 1940 at the Amsterdam auction house Mensing & Zoon, Frederik Muller & Co. It is very likely that Mr. J.W. Frederiks (1889-1962) acquired the objects at this auction. Mr. Frederiks gave the holy water pail and candlestick on loan to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in 1958. They were donated to the museum as part of the collection of Mr. Frederiks in 1994.

In the spring of 2019  the museum submitted the two objects to the Restitutions Committee for a binding opinion in consultation with the heirs of Vita Israël. At the end of July 2020, the Restitutions Committee advised the municipality of Rotterdam and the museum to restitute the two objects to the heirs of Vita Israel. In October 2020 the two objects have been transferred to a representative of the heirs.

Anonymous, candlestick, 1400-1425, donation Coll. Mr. J.W. Frederiks 1994
Anonymous, candlestick, 1400-1425, donation Coll. Mr. J.W. Frederiks 1994
Anonymous, holy water pail, 1100-1125, donation Coll. Mr. J.W. Frederiks 1994
Anonymous, holy water pail, 1100-1125, donation Coll. Mr. J.W. Frederiks 1994

Completed request painting 'Mountainous Landscape' by Jacob van Geel

In 1975 the Jewish art historian and art dealer Vitale Bloch (1900-1975) bequeathed the painting 'Mountainous Landscape' by Jacob van Geel to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. During the provenance investigation, it remained unclear when and how Vitale Bloch had acquired the work. According to various annotated sale catalogues, the painting, which came from Hofstede de Groot’s collection, went under the hammer on 9 June 1931, when it was purchased by Joseph Henri Gosschalk (1875-1952).

Completed request painting 'Mountainous Landscape' by Jacob van Geel
Jacob van Geel, Mountainous Landscape, circa 1620, from the estate of Vitale Bloch 1976

Gosschalk was a Jewish art collector and artist from The Hague who was taken away in 1943 and held prisoner in Barneveld, then Westerbork and then Theresienstadt. Before he was rounded up, he had to surrender paintings to the German looting agency Liro. He survived the war and returned to The Hague, where he died in 1952. After the war Gosschalk corresponded with the Netherlands Art Property Foundation (SNK). It emerged from this correspondence that he lost several works during the war. The painting by Jacob van Geel is not mentioned in this correspondence.

Since the investigation failed to establish how and when Vitale Bloch acquired 'Mountainous Landscape', the museum approached Gosschalk’s heirs and, in consultation with them, submitted the case to the Restitutions Committee in the summer of 2017 for a binding opinion. In the autumn of 2019, the Restitutions Committee issued their opinion, concluding that the museum (Rotterdam City Council) was not obliged to restitute the work. It emerged from the supplementary investigation conducted by the Restitution of Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War Expertise Centre that Vitale Bloch acquired the painting in or before 1940. See the Restitutions Committee’s full binding opinion here

The museum is considering with Gosschalk’s heirs how the provenance of ‘Mountainous Landscape’ can best be presented.

Restitution of the painting ‘Still Life with Tulip’ by Dirck van Delen

The still life ‘Still Life with Tulip’, a small panel painting of 1637 by the 17th-century artist Dirck van Delen (Heusden 1605-1671 Arnemuiden), was restituted in 1999 by the City of Rotterdam to the heirs of the French Jewish collector Adolphe Schloss through the mediation of the French State. The museum acquired the signed and dated painting in 1976 as part of the bequest of the Russian-Polish art historian, art dealer and collector Dr Vitale Bloch (1900-1975).

The small painting occupies a special position within Van Delen’s oeuvre, being the only still life among a large number of architectural scenes. Also, pictures of just a single flower are extremely rare. The shells are valuable, exotic specimens. The tulip is the costly Generalissimo of Gouda, and it stands in a gendi vase imported from the Far East.

It is not entirely clear how this picture left the Schloss collection in Paris, but it was probably confiscated by the Gestapo in 1943 along with the rest of his collection. It is not on the 1946 lists of works of art restituted by Germany. Nor is it known where or when Bloch acquired the still life.

Restitution of the painting ‘Still Life with Tulip’ by Dirck van Delen
Still Life with Tulip, Dirck van Delen, 1637, from the estate of Vitale Bloch 1976

After restitution to the heirs of Schloss the painting was auctioned in Paris on 20 December 2000, where it was sold to a private French collector for 1.4 million guilders.

Literature
-Frits Scholten, ‘Rotterdamse grootmoedigheid’, Openbaar Kunstbezit 42/6 (1998), p. 2;
-Edward Grasman, ‘Vitale Bloch: de jonge jaren’, RKD Bulletin 2 (2010), pp. 2-13.

Restitution of the drawings ‘Tomb of a King’ and ‘Entrance to a Mosque’ by Marius Bauer

In 2000, the City of Rotterdam voluntarily returned the two drawings ‘Tomb of a King’ and ‘Entrance to a Mosque’ by the Dutch Orientalist artist Marius Bauer (1867-1932) to the rightful heirs of their former owner. Research carried out by historian Dr A.J. Bonke as part of the project Museum Acquisitions 1940-48 showed that the drawings were purchased in 1943 by Dirk Hannema, the then director of Museum Boymans, together with a drawing by George Hendrik Breitner and a painting by Nicolaas van der Waay from Eduard Plietzsch of Dienststelle Mühlmann, which illegally expropriated artworks on behalf of the Nazis. 

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 June 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.

Restitution of the painting ‘Woman seated on the Grass at the Edge of a Meadow and Reading’ by Nicolaas van der Waay

In 2000, the City of Rotterdam voluntarily returned the painting ‘Woman seated on the Grass at the Edge of a Meadow and Reading’ by Nicolaas van der Waay (1855-1936) to the rightful heirs of its former owner. This work, which was then erroneously attributed to ‘H. v.d. Waait, Woman reading in a meadow' and ‘Woman Reading by v.d. Waart’, was investigated by historian Dr A. J. Bonke as part of the project Museum Acquisitions 1940-48.

Restitution of the painting ‘Woman seated on the Grass at the Edge of a Meadow and Reading’ by Nicolaas van der Waay
Seated Woman Reading on the Grass at the Edge of a Meadow, Nicolaas van der Waay, circa 1885-1935

The City of Rotterdam asked Bonke to carry out additional research, which led to a report in April 2000 in which the work of art was identified and its exact provenance established.

The provenance research shows that painting belonged to Mr I.H. Leefsma (1879-1943) of Amsterdam, and that it and 64 other objects were handed in without his permission to the city’s ‘robber bank’, Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. (Liro), in 1942 by a member of the Dutch Nazi movement who had been appointed the administrator of Leefsma’s company on 8 December 1941. The Liro then sold the picture to the Dienststelle Mühlmann, which illegally expropriated artworks on behalf of the Nazis. The art historian Eduard Plietzsch, assistant at the Dienststelle Mühlmann, offered to sell the painting and three drawings (two by Bauer and one by Breitner, all three with different provenances) in a letter of 7 July 1943 to Dirk Hannema, director of Museum Boymans. He accepted the offer and bought all four works.

Leefsma and his wife died in March 1943 in Sobibor concentration camp. In 1937 they had named the Vereniging De Joodse Invalide as their sole heir. That society had attempted to ascertain the whereabouts of several artworks from the Leefsma collection in 1951, including this painting by Van der Waay, but without success.

Restitution of the drawing ‘Standing Young Country Woman’ by George Hendrik Breitner

In May 2001, the City of Rotterdam voluntarily returned the black chalk drawing ‘Standing Young Country Woman’ by George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) to the rightful heirs of its former owner. This drawing was purchased in 1943 by Dirk Hannema, the then director of Museum Boymans, together with two drawings by Marius Bauer and a painting by Nicolaas van der Waay (all with different provenances) from Eduard Plietzsch of Dienststelle Mühlmann, which illegally expropriated artworks on behalf of the Nazis.

Research carried out by historian Dr A.J. Bonke as part of the project Museum Acquisitions 1940-48 showed that the watercolour belonged to Mr E. de Vries, who was in America when the war broke out and had left his possessions with De Gruyter & Co., a firm of furniture removers. After the proclamation of the second Liro decree in 1942, De Gruyter surrendered De Vries’s possessions to the Lippman en Rosenthal & Co. ‘robber bank’ (Liro). The heirs of Mr de Vries were eventually traced through research in the Rotterdam City Archives and the Amsterdam register of births, deaths and marriages.

Restitution of the drawing ‘Standing Young Country Woman’ by George Hendrik Breitner
Standing Peasant Woman, George Hendrik Breitner, 1860-1923

Restitution of the drawing ‘Faith in God’ and the painting 'The Thames' by Jan Toorop

Faith in God
‘Faith in God’ (1907) is a coloured drawing by the major Dutch artist Jan Toorop (1858-1928), acquired by the museum in 1943 as a gift from two trustees of the museum foundation. It was bought from the art dealer Herman d’Audretsch in The Hague, who had acquired it from a German dealer. The drawing came onto the market after the German occupying forces had confiscated the belongings of Ernst Flersheim (1862- 1944) in Amsterdam in 1942. Flersheim was a German Jew who had fled to the Netherlands in March 1937. He had been a friend of Toorop’s since 1905 and owned several of his works. In 1943 he and his wife were arrested during a raid in Amsterdam and sent to the Westerbork transit camp.

In 1954 the board of the museum foundation dismissed an initial claim to the drawing by the heirs of Ernst Flersheim; a renewed claim in 1999 was also denied. It was only after a long tussle that the foundation finally returned the drawing to the heir, Walter Eberstadt, upon receipt of 2000 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.

De Thames
‘The Thames’ (1885), an early work by the important Dutch artist Jan Toorop (1858-1928), was sold to the art dealer G.J. Nieuwenhuizen Segaar 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 and one of the museum’s first modern art acquisitions. The dealer paid Flersheim 3500 guilders for the picture, and the museum paid 6000 guilders for the two works.

In 2005, the heirs of Ernst Flersheim, the City of Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen decided jointly to apply for a binding opinion by 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 opinion 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 drawing 'Faith in God' was returned to the heirs in 2001.

Research published
The museum has documented the history of these two works of art in detail. It commissioned research by Anita Hopmans, Chief Curator of Modern Art at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), whose 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.

See also:
A. Hopmans, Acquisition and Restitution: the Toorop Case, Rotterdam (Boijmans Studies) 2008.

The Thames, Jan Toorop, 1885, Purchase 1937
The Thames, Jan Toorop, 1885, Purchase 1937
Faith in God, Jan Toorop, 1907
Faith in God, Jan Toorop, 1907