Showing posts with label Norton Simon Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Norton Simon Museum. Show all posts

February 15, 2018

An appeal that could have a strong legal significance on Holocaust-era claims in the United States

The protracted multi-million dollar lawsuit regarding the 480-year-old paintings of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder at the Norton Simon Museum has lasted more than ten years.  The lawsuit against the museum, began with a quest undertaken by Marei von Saher, the sole surviving heir of the Dutch-Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who has long sought to recover her father in law’s artworks, looted during the Second World War.   Throughout this lengthy process, Saher, has sought the return of two 500-year-old biblical-themed paintings, appraised at $24 million.  

Jacques Goudstikker was once considered to be the preeminent dealer of Old Master paintings in Amsterdam and is estimated to have amassed an extraordinary collection of some 1400 works of art of the course of his professional career.  When Germany began its assault on Holland on May 10, 1940, Goudstikker knew that his family's time was up. As Rotterdam burned and the Nazi invasion under Reichsmarschall Göring gained speed, Goudstikker, his young wife Désirée von Halban Kurtz, and their infant son Edo boarded the SS Bodegraven, a ship docked at the port city of IJmuiden, departing for England and then on its way to the Americas. 

Unable to transport his collection with him, Goudstikker carried a neatly typed inventory of his property in a black leather notebook.  This notebook detailed artworks by important Dutch and Flemish artists like Jan Mostaert and Jan Steen, as well as works by Peter Paul Rubens, Giotto, Pasqualino Veneziano, Titian, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh and many others.  Unfortunately, in a further tragic twist of fate, Goudstikker lost his life on his journey to safety, breaking his neck in an accidental fall through an uncovered hatch just two days into the ship's voyage.

In less than a week after the German Luftwaffe of the Third Reich crossed into Dutch airspace, Dutch commanding general General Henry G. Winkelman surrendered and the country fell under German occupation.   As a result, Amsterdam came under a civilian administration overseen by the Reichskommissariat Niederlande, which was dominated by the Schutzstaffel.  

Goudstikker's collection was quickly liquidated in a forced sale typical of many World War II -era art thefts.  Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring himself cherry picked many of the choicest art works, sending more than 800 paintings to Germany.   Some of which were hung in Göring's private collection at Karinhall, his country estate near Berlin.

On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, a three-judge panel with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is the U.S. Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in Alaska, Arizona and the Central District of California heard oral arguments from Von Saher’s attorney, Lawrence Kaye from Herrick Feinstein on the return of the paintings from the Norton Simon Museum.  

In his presentation, Kaye disagreed with U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter's earlier ruling that the Norton Simon Museum is the rightful owner of the paintings on the basis that the Dutch government couldn't assert ownership of artwork it received through external restitution.  In his oral statements he asserted that:

Whatever decision the Appellate court makes in this case will have broad legal ramifications for how forced sale restitution cases are heard in the US Courts.  When the arguments conclude, the judges' panel will either uphold the ruling of the lower court in favor of the Norton Simon Museum,  reverse the earlier decision in favor of von Saher, or send the case back down to the lower court for trial. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

May 21, 2014

LA Times' Mike Boehm on the return of the "Temple Wrestler" from the Norton Simon Museum to Cambodia

Mike Boehm, an arts reporter for the Los Angeles Times, publishes today on the return of the "Temple Wrestler" from the Norton Simon Museum to Cambodia (see here for the museum's announcements earlier this month).

Boehm quoted the museum's legal status in avoiding a lawsuit:
The Norton Simon took a different approach, based on past cordial relations with Cambodia's cultural authorities. Without a suit having been filed, museum representatives went to Phnom Penh for discussions earlier this year. Despite what the museum characterized as "a good-faith difference of views" with Cambodia over whether the Norton Simon was legally obliged to send the statue back, its leaders concluded that there were special reasons to send it home. "While there are extremely strong legal arguments for why we could defeat a claim, and while the Cambodian law is ambiguous at best, in this circumstance it seems appropriate and in keeping with the positive relationship the Norton Simon has had with Cambodia over the years to gift the statue to them," said Luis Li, an attorney for the museum. "They have a very specific archaeological context they want to create, and I think the Norton Simon was moved by that."
And on other Cambodian art at the Norton Simon Museum, Boehm writes:
The Norton Simon Museum will still own 40 ancient Cambodian objects, including a gigantic standing figure of Buddha that serves as a greeter in its lobby, and a lion that crouches on guard near the entrance to the gallery where Bhima will soon no longer preside. It's uncertain whether a dozen other pieces are from Cambodia or from Thailand. "We have not been approached by Cambodian or U.S. officials about other works in the collection and have no indication of future requests," museum spokeswoman Leslie Denk said this week.

May 17, 2014

Norton Simon Museum announces "Temple Wrestler" last day on display in Pasadena will be May 22

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Today the Norton Simon Museum here in Pasadena sent out an email to the community:
Dear members and friends, 
You may have read in the newspaper that the Norton Simon Art Foundation is making a gift of its “Temple Wrestler” statue to the Kingdom of Cambodia. This monumental 10th-century sandstone sculpture depicting Bhima, a heroic figure from the Hindu masterpiece The Mahabharata, has been exhibited continuously at the Norton Simon Museum for nearly four decades. During this period, the Museum has taken great care to preserve the work, and to highlight its significance through scholarly research and publication. Now, following a compelling request from officials in Cambodia, the piece will return to its country of origin, joining several other sculptures that are believed to have once stood at a temple in Koh Ker. 
We wanted to inform you that the last day this remarkable artwork will be on public view is next Thursday, May 22nd. For those of you interested in seeing it before it makes its journey to Phnom Penh and to the National Museum there, we hope you will visit us in the coming days. 
Kind regards, 
Leslie C. Denk Director of Public Affairs
On May 6, 2014, the museum had issued a press release announcing the return of the "Temple Wrestler" to the Kingdom of Cambodia "in response to a unique and compelling request by top officials in Cambodia to help rebuild its “soul” as a nation, the Norton Simon has decided to make a gift of the Bhima to the Kingdom of Cambodia and to its people":
The Norton Simon properly acquired the Bhima from a reputable art dealer in New York in 1976. However, the facts about the Bhima’s provenance prior to the dealer’s ownership are unclear because of the chaotic wartime conditions in Cambodia during the 1970s. Even though the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Norton Simon have a good faith difference of views in relation to the meaning and scope of Cambodian law and guidelines governing the determination of ownership of the Bhima, the Norton Simon worked directly with Cambodia to come up with a mutually acceptable solution.
Page 287 of the Handbook of the Norton Simon Museum (2003) contains the image of this statue, identified as a sandstone TEMPLE GUARDIAN 'typical of those found at the site of Koh Ker, which for a brief period (921-928) served as the capital of the Khmer empire'. Other than the acquisition date of 1980, no other information is provided about how the statue traveled from Cambodia to the United States.

December 26, 2013

"Selling Russia's Treasures" writes about the collecting history of Lucas Cranach the Elder's "Adam and Eve" now at The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCAblog Editor-in-Chief

Santa left a tantalizing art book under my Christmas tree, Selling Russia's Treasures: The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art 1917-1938 edited by Natalya Semyonova and Nicolas V. Iljine, (MTA Publishing, November 2013), which is of particular interest to me as one of the artworks mentioned is the "Adam" and "Eve" diptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder that resides within a 15-minute walk of my home. This work is the subject of litigation in Marei Von Saher vs. The Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, which can be heard here from a court hearing in August 2013. These two paintings, purchased by the Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker at an Lepke auction in 1931 and 'purchased' by Herman Göring in 1940 were returned to an heir of the Stroganoff family after World War II and subsequently sold to Norton Simon in 1971. Did Cranach's "Adam" and "Eve" ever belong to the well-documented Stroganov Collection? According to Selling Russia's Treasures:
In addition to paintings from the Stroganov collection, the Lepke auction of May 12-13, 1931, featured two Lucas Cranach paired canvases, Adam and Eve, from the Art Museum of the Ukraine Academy of Sciences in Kiev. 
Cranach paintings often included Adam and Eve, but the existence of the canvases put up for the 1931 auction was unknown well into the late 1920s. The paintings had been found under a staircase in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Kiev in 1927, then moved to the museum of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (monastery); in 1928, on the initiative of Prof. S. O. Gilyarov, the paintings were given to the Academy museum in Kiev (in 1929 Gilyarov published an article in Ukrainian about the paintings; it included a brief synopsis in French). The newly discovered Adam and Eve were sold in 1931 to Dutch collector Jacques Goudstikker, whose remarkable personal collection numbered more than a thousand old master paintings and about a hundred old master sculptures.
Here are previous ARCA posts about the painting; the Goudstikker collection's 'sale' to the Nazis; the Stroganoff Collection; and the lawsuit.

May 11, 2012

Update: Von Saher vs. Norton Simon Museum and Norton Simon Foundation

Marei von Saher, the daughter-in-law of Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, filed a Notice of Appeal on March 22, 2012 to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding her case against the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena to recover Lucas Cranach's diptych "Adam" and "Eve".  Her opening brief is not due for several months.

Von Saher is represented by Lawrence M. Kaye and Howard N. Spiegler of Herrick, Feinstein of New York and Donald S. Burris and Randol Schoenberg of Burris, Schoenberg & Walden of Los Angeles.  Herrick, Feinstein recovered "Portrait of Wally" and Schoenberg recovered the Adele Bloch-Bauer paintings by Gustav Klimt for families who had lost possession of the works during the Holocaust. 

Mike Boehm for the Los Angeles Times wrote about the case here last week.

March 28, 2012

Courthouse News Service Reports "California Law on Nazi Art Won't Aid Dutch Heir"

Lucas Cranach the Elder's diptych "Adam" and "Eve"
  at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California
March 27 Maria Dinzeo reported for Courthouse News Service that "California Law on Nazi Art Won't Aid Dutch Heir" in the case of the Goudstikker family against the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena for the diptych "Adam" and "Eve" by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

U. S. District Court Judge John F. Walter has written that the heirs are preempted by a foreign affairs doctrine. Judge Walter sits on the U. S. District Court for the Central District of California.

ARCA blog previously covered the background of this case and the paintings in the fall of 2010 here, here and here.

June 30, 2011

Update on Lucas' "Cranach's Adam and Eve" at The Norton Simon Museum: Laura Gilbert's Blog "Art Unwashed" Comments on "Supreme Court Declines to Hear Art Restitution Cases"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Laura Gilbert, through her Art Unwashed blog, reported Monday June 27th that the Supreme Court decided not to hear Von Staher v. Norton Simon Museum which we have covered extensively on the ARCA blog ["The Norton Simon Museum's Adam and Eve Part I and II" here and here, "The Stroganoff Collection in 1800 by Alexander Stroganoff"]. Her comments on the case are of course thoughtful and well-worth reading. As a member of the Norton Simon Museum and as a resident of Pasadena living within a one-mile walk of the Lucas Cranach paintings, I will confess to being very attached to them staying in California. However, I would like to comment that research does support that these paintings were purchased by Jacques Goudstikker in Berlin in 1931 and that the Jewish art dealer was forced to flee Amsterdam by the Nazis in 1940. His Black Notebook clearly states that these paintings were owned by him at the time of his death and later transferred to the Nazis in a force sale. Provenance research by myself -- and by The Getty Research Institute -- has not supported the Dutch government's decision in the 1960s to turn over the paintings to an heir of the Stroganoff family who then sold them to Norton Simon. Someday I will share with readers my misadventures and the countless twists and turns I have taken in trying to find any mention of Lucas Cranach's "Adam" and "Eve" in the Stroganoff Collection -- it is a fascinating story for those of us who love to research, however, the only conclusion would have to be that they never were owned by any member of the Stroganoff family before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The question left to me after months and hours of research is how did this paintings end up in a church in the Ukraine?

October 18, 2010

Lucas Cranach the Elder's "Adam" and "Eve" diptych subject of Marei Von Saher vs. The Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena (Part I)

Cranach's "Adam",
Norton Simon Museum
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin

First of a two part series

While his close friend Martin Luther “often preached about the fall of man and its consequences” (Norton Simon Museum audio tour), the German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder painted more than 30 works of the naked Adam and Eve contemplating a bite of the forbidden apple and expulsion from Paradise. The "Adam" and "Eve" diptych residing at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, is the subject of controversy 500 years later in a Holocaust art-restitution case (Marei Von Saher vs. The Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena). The heir of a Jewish art dealer, Jacques Goudstikker, has claimed that Hitler’s second-in-command, Herman Göring, stole “Adam” and “Eve” in 1940 and that the Dutch government wrongly transferred the paintings to the heir of a Russian aristocratic family in a purported sale, who then sold the works to wealthy industrialist Norton Simon in 1971.

Cranach's "Eve",
Norton Simon
The Norton Simon Museum’s “Adam” and “Eve”, painted on two large wood panels measuring 75 x 27 ½ inches, likely started out as decorating the home of a wealthy member of the royal court in the 16th century although it would end up in a Church in Kiev by the 20th century. The scope of this article does not track down all of the 30 versions “Adam and Eve” neither does it explain how the Norton Simon Museum’s painting came to travel to the Ukraine in the 1920s. However, a quick review of public institutions through the Getty Provenance Index Databases shows that smaller, paintings of the first couple have been in the collections of the Detroit Institute of the Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. The diptych on display in Chicago has resided there since 1935 after Charles H. Worcester purchased it on September 10, 1935 from Jacques Goudstikker of Amsterdam before donating it to the museum in the same year. It is believed that Goudstikker purchased Chicago’s “Adam” and “Eve” from a private collection in Stockholm.1

Jacques Goudstikker, a third-generation art dealer in Amsterdam, owned more than one of the thirty paintings by Cranach of “Adam” and “Eve”. He was a specialist in Old Master paintings and had produced shows that featured works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Goya, Rubens, and Hieronymus Bosch. He purchased a larger diptych of “Adam” and “Eve” by Cranach the Elder for $11,186 at an auction in Berlin in 1931. The auction featured works previously owned by the Stroganoff family in St. Petersburg. However, in 1917, the Bolshevik government had nationalized all art held in private collections and to raise money in 1931, the Russian government put the artworks up for sale.

The Stroganov Collection

Count Aleksandr Sergeevich Stroganov (1733-1811), an art patron and a member of the court of Catherine the Great, acquired most of his art at Paris auctions from 1769 to 1779. He catalogued them in published editions in 1793 and 1800. In the mid-19th century, Count Sergei Grigoryevitch added to the Stroganoff Collection by acquiring many 15th century Italian paintings. In 1864, German art historian Gustav Friedrich Waagen described the Stroganov Collection when he assisted the Hermitage in sorting their collection. In 1901, Alexander Benois described the Stroganoff palace and gallery in Les Trésors d’Art en Russie.2 The Stroganoff Collection was displayed in the gallery of the family palace in St. Petersburg until it was moved to safety in Moscow during the Revolution. Eventually, it was returned to Leningrad.

Soviet artworks were not all from the Stroganoff Collection

The catalogue of the auction of the Stroganoff Collection at Rudolph Lepke’s Kunst-Auctions-Haus in Berlin, included an essay by James Schmidt who wrote that pictures from sources other than the Stroganoff Collection were included in the sale. Schmidt provided “a summary overview” of paintings offered for sale at the auction that were not from the Stroganoff Collection. He listed Rembrandt’s “Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well” from the Hermitage; Claude Lorrain’s “Morning” and “Ulysses at Lycomedes’ Court”; Van Dyck’s “Bishop Malderus”; Nicholaus Neufchatel’s “Patrician Woman from Nuremberg”; and Artus van der Neers’ “Moonlight Landscape”. Schmidt also cited Goyens’ “View of Arnheim Across the Rhine” from the Semenov-Tianshansky collection acquired by the Hermitage in 1912. Then, in the next paragraph, Schmidt wrote: “The remaining paintings from other sources include primarily “Adam and Eve” by Cranach, which were discovered in a Kiev church and can be dated to between 1525 and 1530.”

“Adam” and “Eve” are believed to have been at the Church of Holy Trinity in Kiev, Ukraine until the early 1920s when they were sent to a state-owned Kiev museum at Kievo Pecherskaia Lawra Monastery. Then in 1927, they were transferred to the Museum of the Ukrainian Academy of Science in Kiev before they were included in the Berlin sale in 1931.

Provenance Research

The Getty Provenance Research Database notes in its records on the “Adam” and “Eve” diptych at the Norton Simon Museum: “There is reason to doubt, however, that the Cranach paintings had actually belonged to the Stroganoff family and been confiscated during the Russian Revolution, as previously believed. First, other collections were included in the 1931 Lepke sale. According to an annotation by Ellis Waterhouse in a copy of the catalogue of the sale now in the GRI [Getty Research Institute], “Not a very large proportion of the pictures really came from the Stroganoff coll(ection). The rest are drawn from other sequestrated private collections & from the Hermitage depot.” The Getty also notes that Cranach’s Adam and Eve do not appear in earlier references to the Stroganoff collection.

This blogger has sent a request to the Norton Simon Museum for more information about the provenance of their paintings and looks forward reporting their reply.

2. Waagen published a book on the Hermitage collection (Munich, 1864). Waagen traveled to St. Petersburg in 1861. Schmidt’s essay, May 1931.