Showing posts with label Cultural Plunder Database. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cultural Plunder Database. Show all posts

November 10, 2017

Auction Alert: Sotheby’s London and Henryk Siemiradzki's “The Sword Dance”

Image Credit: ARCA - Screen Capture 10 November 2017
Yesterday provenance scholar Yagna Yass-Alston, a specialist in the history of Jewish artists and collectors, alerted ARCA that a version of 19th century painter Henryk Siemiradzki's The Sword Dance," is currently up for sale in the November 28th Russian Pictures auction to be held at Sotheby’s in London. The painting appears to be on offer through a private German collector who acquired the painting through his parents circa 1960.

Yass-Alston noted that the painting is published in the Polish Database of the Division of Looted Art of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and provided a link to the painting's identification and details on the ministry’s database.  According to the website, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage has, since 1992, been responsible for gathering information regarding cultural property lost from within the post-1945 borders of Poland with an aim at their recovery.

Image Credit: ARCA - Screen Capture 10 November 2017
The Polish ministry of culture and national heritage has stated that it is in contact with the auction firm and will undertake efforts to have the painting withdrawn from the upcoming sale.

Henryk Hektor Siemiradzki (1843 - 1902) was born into a Polish noble family, the son of an officer of the Imperial Russian Army.  He studied art in Saint Petersburg at the Imperial Academy of Arts, and later in both Munich and Rome. His paintings are inspired by the life of Greek and Roman mythology and he is believed to be one of the major interpreters of the so-called Arte Accademica, also known as Academic art, or academicism or academism, a style of painting, sculpture, and architecture produced under the influence of European academies of art which reflected the aesthetic canons of the past.

In verifying the version of the painting in question, ARCA's own research identified three other distinct and original versions of the painting “The Sword Dance,” each with slight modifications by the artist in the composition. 

The master version, believed to have been completed in 1878 and catalogued as Schwertertanz in the catalog record of the Akademi der Künste zu Berlin, was acquired by Count Alexander Orlovsky.  The present whereabouts of this version are not known.  

Another version, commissioned by Moscow merchant and collector K.T. Soldatenkov, was given to the Rumyantsev Museum at his death and now is part of the State Tretyakov Gallery collection in Moscow. 

A third version of “The Sword Dance” was sold by Sotheby's on April 12, 2011 in New York.  Listed as “Property from the Slotkowski Collection,” this version of the artwork sold for a record price of 2,098,500 USD, making it one of the 10 most expensive auctioned artworks from Poland.  

At the time of this third version's sale, Sotheby's listed the artwork's provenance as follows:

Franz Otto Matthiessen, an American sugar mogol, died in 1901. Artworks from his extensive collection were sold shortly thereafter. William Schaus, Jr. was the son of Wilhelm, later William Schaus, Sr., a German-immigrant art collector and proprietor of Schaus Galleries in New York City.  It is not clear from the Sotheby's notation if they are referencing father or son, but the label on the frame of this painting reads "Schaus," making it clear that the painting passed through the Schaus Galleries, but leaving it vague as to who acquired the painting first, Matthiessen or Schaus, as Matthiessen often purchased from Schaus. This version of the painting reappears on the market in 1968 when Dr. Eugene L. Slotkowski, the founder of the Slotkowski Sausage Company in Chicago, acquired the work from an unnamed  private collector.

Estimating war losses incurred by Poland in the area of objects of art is difficult to assess, as the country suffers not only from a lack of complete archival materials but also changes in geographic territory, making establishing legal claims more difficult. What is certain is that scores of museum and private collections disappeared during the hostilities.  

While some quote Poland as having lost over 516,000 works of art (Archiwum Akt Nowych w Warszawie, zespól Ministerstwa Kultury i Sztuki), this estimate is likely quite low, as it only considers those claims established by former owners after the conclusion of the war.

July 1, 2013

From Inside Neolithic Walls: On Collaboration and Cooperation

Hong Kong police officer Toby Bull presents at
ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in Amelia.
(Photo by Illicit Cultural Property)
by Martin Terrazas, co-posting with plundered art

I have been asked about the quality of the program offered by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, similarly, the Provenance Research Training Program. Why travel across the Atlantic Ocean despite such expense? Why attend postgraduate certificate-based programs in unfamiliar cultures and societies?

Daily moments of cross-cultural communication at Caffé Grande evoke inspiration: Understanding the tone of a buongiorno is essential. The relationship between customer and barista in implicit. Friendliness and attempts to become more Italian are rewarded with pleasantries. The morning caffeine jolt is more than a financial exchange; it requires mutual cooperation and collaboration.

Therein lies lessons for preventing art crime and conducting provenance research. There is little room for undue opposition and overly emotional outbursts as both are forensic exercises, in which, ultimately, the objective is to determine who has proper title to a stolen object. Research, investigation, analysis, and context are essential. The desire to jockey into position for fame and fortune is futile; ambition, in Amelia, Magdeburg, Zagreb, and future conference cities, is better focused on becoming a more refined, cooperative and ethical professional.

The existence of dishonorable participants in the art market is given; the larger question is whether these individuals define the art market or rather the art market defines them. Experience with “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume” and other databases allows me to realize that greed marks a loss of power and reputation. Rather than intrigue, the initials of Adolph Hitler and Hermann Göring on archival documents eternally evoke disgust and failure.

In saying benvenuto in the current “age of angst”, it is better to live in an environment of mutual cooperation.[1] Amelia and the think tank that settles into its crevices during the Mediterranean’s hottest months, similar to the periodic week-long efforts as a result of the 2009 Terezín Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, empowers future generations to learn through discourse and discussion.

 [1] Joergen Oerstrom Moeller, “Welcome to the Age of Angst,” Singapore Management University, 12 August 2012.

Martin Terrazas is a student with the Association for Research into Crimes against Art. He is a contributor to the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. He assisted in the release and continues in the expansion of “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects” – a cooperation between the Looted Art and Cultural Property Initiative of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, World Jewish Restitution Organization, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Archives and Records Administration, Das Bundesarchiv, and Ministère des Affaires étrangère et européannes. He participated in the Provenance Research Training Program – a project of the European Shoah Legacy Institute – hosted at the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg.

October 23, 2011

Marking the First Anniversary of the launching of the Cultural Plunder Database

This week marked the first anniversary of the October 18, 2010, launching of the Database of Art Objects that transited through the Jeu de Paume from 1940 to 1944. The ARCA Blog wrote about the Database here, here and here.

Marc Masurovsky, the Project's director, sent out an email to supporters that he has permitted the ARCA blog to publish here:
In order to celebrate 12 months of global usage of the contents of this historical database, here are some generic statistics that give some idea about the people who visit and use it. 
Thanks again to the Conference of Jewish Material Claims against Germany, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Commission for Art Recovery, the interns, technicians, programmers, and volunteers who made this database a reality.
He provided the following information:

Number of pageviews: 377,715

Number of user source countries: 137

Top 10 user languages:
1/ English
2/ French
3/ German
4/ Dutch
5/ Spanish
6/ Italian
7/ Polish
8/ Danish
9/ Japanese
10/ Russian

Top 10 user countries (in decreasing order of importance):
1/ United States,
2/ France
3/ Germany
4/ Netherlands
5/ United Kingdom
6/ Spain
7/ Italy
8/ Belgium
9/ Canada
10/ Denmark

Top 10 user States in the US (by decreasing order of importance):
1/ New York
2/ California
3/ District of Columbia
4/ Massachusetts
5/ Texas
6/ Florida
7/ Virginia
8/ Illinois
9/ Pennsylvania
10/ North Carolina

The most popular artist queries were (in decreasing order of importance):

Picasso, Monet, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Rubens, Eugène Carrière, Greuze, Renoir, Chagall, Sisley, Teniers, Degas, Léger, Nattier, Modigliani, Sèvres vase, Pissarro, Manet, Rodin, Dali, Braque, Goya.

The most popular collection queries were (in decreasing order of importance):
Hugo Andriesse, Alexandrine de Rothschild, Louis Louis-Dreyfus, Rothschild, Arthur L. Mayer, Princess Colloredo, Adolphe Weiss, Frederic Unger, Riesener (Ball), Flavian.

The most viewed items were (by ERR number, name of artist/type of object and source user country):
1/ Unb 55/Salvador Dali (Spain),
2/ A Le 1/bronze of Napoleon (United States),
3/ Unb 326/Picasso (United States),
4/ KAP 21/Picasso (United States),
5/ A Le 32a/clock (United States),
6/ AD W1/Raphael (United States),
7/ Unb 30/Picasso (United States),
8/ Unb 327/Picasso (United States),
9/ Fla 39/Monet (France),
10/ Wbg 128/van Gogh (United States),
11/ Li 35/Renoir (United States),
12/ Li 38/Monet (United States),
13/ R 905/van Gogh (United States),
14/ R 1505/van Gogh (Germany),
15/ Unb 348/Monet (United States),
16/ Heilbronn 4/Monet (United States),
17/ Ha 1/van Ostade (United States),
18/ Wbg 127/van Gogh (Netherlands),
19/ Unb 39/Picasso (United States).

You may access the Cultural Plunder Database here.

February 22, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Patricia Kennedy Grimsted on "Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder"

Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted most recent publication, Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder: A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), will soon be launched on-line by the International Institute of Social History (IISG/IISH) in Amsterdam . Issued in association with the Netherlands Institute of War Documentation (NIOD), with generous support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) it describes the archival remains of the ERR in 29 repositories in 9 countries – from Washington and Brussels to Moscow and Kyiv.

Dr. Grimsted’s article “The Postwar Fate of Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg Archival and Library Plunder, and the Dispersal of ERR Records,” appeared in the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

As Dr. Grimsted writes, “The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the ‘Special Task Force’ headed by Adolf Hitler's leading ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, was one of the main Nazi agencies engaged in looting cultural valuables in Nazi-occupied countries during the Second World War. The detail with which the ERR documented the art, archives, books, and other Judaica they plundered has proved essential for the recovery of cultural valuables after the war and their return to victims or heirs.”

Dr. Grimsted's new extensive international survey serves as a preliminary guide to documents generated by the ERR as well as records by postwar agencies seeking to return the ERR loot. Links are provided to many dispersed materials now available on the Internet or in microform. These include the recent efforts of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv), and other repositories, with additional digital contributions expected soon, providing improved access to a major component of the record of wartime cultural plunder and retrieval.
A discussion with Dr. Grimsted about her article, "The Postwar Fate of einsatzstaf Reichsleiter Rosenberg Archival and Library Plunder, and the Dispersal of ERR Records", published in the same issue can be found on the ARCA blog on January 31.

Currently, Russian museums are withholding art previously scheduled for travel to the United States for exhibitions due to a conflict over books and archives from a Jewish library now held in Russia. The Schneerson Library of 12,000 books assembled by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement over two centuries was nationalized after 1917 and is held today in the Russian State Library in Moscow. Their related collection of 50,000 religious documents taken to Poland prior to World War II was stolen by the Nazis, and then found by the Soviet Army and taken to Moscow, where it has been held in secret for decades in the Soviet Union.

To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to The Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

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, 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.”