November 8, 2010

Revisiting the Cultural Plunder Database

Biche more, Gustave Courbet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Revisiting the “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Richsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume”

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The database of stolen art from Jewish French and Belgian collectors processed through the Jeu de Paume in Paris from 1940 to 1944 has received more than 11,000 visits from 97 countries since its public release three weeks ago.

The database, which can be accessed at http://www.errproject.org/jeudepaume, is a Joint Project of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with the cooperation of the Bundesarchiv (The German Federal Archives), France Diplomatie: Diplomatic Archive Center of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and The United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The website for the database also includes a photo gallery of the Nazi’s “Special Task Force”, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), processing art works through the center of Paris and another section of works of art considered objectionable (“Degenerate”) by the Nazis – works by artists such as Max Ernst, Salvardor Dalí, and Kees van Dongen.

Users can browse by art owners, by collection, or by artist. Information about the art includes measurements, a title in German, and the name of the owner and the collection and in many cases, whether or not the painting or artwork was restituted to its wartime owner.

An 1857 painting by Gustave Courbet (titled in German Totes Re him Walde or in French Biche morte) entered the Jeu de Paume between September and October of 1942. It was considered for a possible exchange, but was returned to France in 1949. In 1951, the French national museum collection placed it into into the Louvre until 1954 when it was sent to the Musée National Ahmed Zabana in Oran. The painting stayed in Algeria for 31 years until it was stolen in October of 1985.

A painting “considered for exchange” indicates that the ERR staff wanted to trade the painting with art dealers as “payment-in-kind” for works of art desired by Hermann Goering and other Nazi dignitaries for their collections or for the Reich.

Sixteen years later, a reproduction of the same painting, now under the new title of Chevreuil Mort/Dead Deer, appeared in an auction catalogue for a sale scheduled at the George V Hotel in Paris on December 19, 2001. Recognizing the stolen the painting, the French museums rquested that the painting be withdrawn from the sale. It was seized by the police, then transferred to the musée d’Orsay on October 29, 2002.

The ERR Collection Name was “MA-B” or “Möbel-Aktion Bilder”, a category of more than 1,300 matches. "Möbel Aktion" means that it was ‘Operation Furniture’ that the work was removed from a Jewish home. “Bilder” means it was a picture. However, the original owner was not identified by the Nazis and the painting has not been returned to that family.

Could the family who owned that painting make a claim for the return of their painting today? We asked this question to Marc Masurovsky, the project’s director and a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

“If it is the same painting and was not recovered by a legitimate owner and there is someone who can attest to be the rightful owner of the work, that person can make a claim for the unrecovered object,” Masurovsky wrote in an email. “As you know, the database is a work in progress and much information still needs to be added, especially with respect to the postwar fate of many of the works and objects described in the database.”

0 comments:

Post a Comment