Showing posts with label Nazi art theft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nazi art theft. Show all posts

November 2, 2020

The Holocaust Art Restitution Project files an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in the Guelph Treasure case opposing the DOJ's position that Holocaust takings do not qualify as expropriation under federal law

Press Contacts:  

In Washington, DC: Marc Masurovsky, (00) 1 202 255 1602 ,

In New York, NY: Pierre Ciric (00) 1 212 260 6090,

New York, NY USA – October 29, 2020

On October 28, 2020, the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, a not-for-profit group dedicated to the identification and restitution of artworks looted by the Nazi, filed, through its counsel, Pierre Ciric, Esq., an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in the so-called “Guelph Treasure” case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

This case involves the Welfenschatz, or Guelph trove, currently in the possession of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (“the Foundation”) and has been claimed by successors of art dealers who were fleeing the Holocaust. These objects were originally housed in the cathedral in Braunschweig, owned by the House of Guelph. In the 1920s, the pieces were sold to a consortium of Frankfurt art dealers. Later in 1935, the Prussian state, led by Hermann Goering, “bought” the treasure from those art dealers. Following a 2014 rejection of the dealers’ heirs claims by the German so-called “Limbach Commission,” suit was brought against the Foundation and Germany in the U.S. 

In siding with the German defendants, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) argued that Germany was immune from suit because “domestic takings” by foreign governments do not fall under the expropriation exception to the immunity rules.

HARP’s amicus brief argues that the DOJ’s defense is baseless because of legal precedents, is contrary to multiple U.S. statutes promulgated by the U.S. Congress and to the long-standing U.S. policy regarding restitution of Nazi-looted artworks claimed by Holocaust survivors.  Finally, the brief argues that the DOJ’s position would raise significant due process concerns by distinguishing heirs of German Jews from heirs of Jews stripped of their citizenship during the Holocaust.

According to Ori Z. Soltes, HARP’s chairman, “it is simply disheartening to see our own government arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that the Holocaust does not qualify as a genocidal enterprise worthy of being recognized as a ‘violation of international law.’  If the Holocaust does not fall squarely in this definition, then nothing else does!  The Court should reject this baseless argument and ensure that the U.S. remains a proper forum for claimants to seek redress from the genocidal enterprise of looting cultural assets from Jews during World War II.”

The Ciric Law Firm, PLLC is a New York law firm specialized in cultural heritage law and in commercial litigation services for businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals.

HARP is a not-for-profit group dedicated to the identification and restitution of looted artworks requiring detailed research and analysis of public and private archives in North America. HARP has worked for 22 years on the restitution of artworks looted by the Nazi regime. 

The case is Philipp v. Fed. Republic of Germany, 894 F.3d 406 (D.C. Cir. 2018), cert. granted, No. 19-351 (U.S. July 2, 2020).

January 4, 2019

Marc Masurovsky returns to Amelia this summer to teach "Provenance Research, Theory and Practice” at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis

This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 31 through August 15, 2019 in the heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s professors will be interviewed. In this one, I am speaking with Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project.

Can you tell us something about your background and work? 

I was born and raised in Paris, France, of American artists, one figurative, the other abstract. I took an early interest in history and especially in the politics and economics of fascism and national socialism.  My interest further increased as I was able to work at the Office of Special Investigations in Washington, DC, investigating the past of suspected Axis war criminals who acquired US citizenship.  Then I was hooked. 

My independent research focused on the economics of genocide and the recycling of all kinds of assets looted from Jewish victims and the near-absence of postwar justice against those who executed, abetted and profited from those crimes against humanity. I eventually found myself involved with class action lawsuits against Swiss banks which led, inevitably, to the looted art issue with which I have been associated for the past two decades. 

I am a co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project and have taught a number of workshops focused exclusively on provenance research as it applies to Nazi/Fascist-era dislocations of Jewish-owned property.

What do you feel is the most relevant of your course?

I teach one course, provenance research. I view it more as a training than as an academic exercise.

What do you hope participants will get out of the courses?

I hope that those who take the provenance research workshop, (that’s really what it is), never look at an artistic, cultural, or ritual object, again with the same eyes as they had before they took the course. I want them to become skeptical of everything that they read about the history of those objects and to develop an insatiable curiosity for understanding where those objects come from and the what/where/when/why/how of their pasts by whom and with what.

What would a typical day be like in your classroom?

Every day is different but a main component of the workshop is to ask questions, remain inquisitive and be able to think outside of the proverbial box. 

While each year participants are very enthusiastic about your courses, is there anything you learn from them in class?

Each participant comes from a very different background and he/she has his/her own unique relationship towards art objects, culture and history. The gift they bring me is their story, and the way they apprehend the topics that we tackle each hour of every day and, hopefully, be part of the transformation that they go through when confronted with evidence, inquiry, and research.

"Göring train" full of art looted by the Nazis
Berchtesgaden, Germany, 1945
Image: Image Credit: William Vandivert, Time & Life Pictures
In anticipation of your courses, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants?

There is no real way to get ready but it would help if participants were a bit savvy about the history of modern Europe, the basic dates, times, and places of major events that provoked these displacements of property. Lynn Nicholas, Hector Feliciano, Jonathan Petropoulos, are some of the authors who produced significant monographs on Nazi plunder, but there are also special investigative reports produced in the early 21st century in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Italy, on Nazi looting. 

HARP's own Plundered Art blog will provide a more argumentative and polemical approach to the issues of plunder and restitution, while suggesting how research can be conducted on objects with dubious pasts.

Which other course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why?

I enjoyed sitting in on Dick Drent’s course because it humbled me on my ignorance of security issues in museums.  Perhaps Christos Tsirogiannis’ course would interest me because of his fierce approach towards the art market and his ability to ferret out looted antiquities. But, seriously, I don’t have any favorites out of fairness to the other professors.

Is there anything you can recommend for future participants to do in Amelia or Umbria?

They should leave their prejudices and assumptions at home and come prepared to be challenged in a small town in central Italy. The structure of the workshop allows them to grow. But they can only grow if they allow themselves to be vulnerable, to listen and to question. 

The questioning is only credible if it is anchored in evidence. As you know, it’s too easy to say: Why? You need to justify your questions and to challenge based on your own research and be prepared to hear that perhaps you are wrong and be prepared to realize that perhaps you are right. That is part of learning and growing.


For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at  

Edgar Tijhuis at the ARCA Library
Edgar Tijhuis is Academic Director at ARCA and visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Since 2009, Edgar Tijhuis has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program. 

August 1, 2018

Sad Conclusion: The case is von Saher v Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-58308.

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 that has lasted more than ten years has now come to a close.  A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a unanimous decision, has ruled in favour of the museum and not 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 protracted judicial process, Saher, had sought the return of the two 500-year-old biblical-themed paintings, which at one point had been 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. 

Goudstikker inventory of property

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 as well as the Cranachs.  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 departing 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, including these two 6-1/4 foot (1.9 meters) tall Cranach panels. Göring went on to send more than 800 paintings to Germany, some of which were hung in his private collection at Karinhall, his country estate near Berlin.

On Monday, July 30, 2018, the 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 applied “the act of state doctrine,” validated the 1966 sale of the paintings by the Dutch government, which by then owned them, to George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff who in turn sold them to the Norton Simon in 1971.

“The act of state doctrine,” limits the ability of U.S. courts, in certain instances, from determining the legality of the acts of a sovereign state within that sovereign's own territory and is often applied in appropriations disputes which immunizes foreign nations from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts when certain conditions are satisfied.

The judges held that in order for von Saher’s claim to have been upheld, the  court would have been required to invalidate the official acts of the Dutch government. Specifically, the Dutch government’s conveyance of the paintings to Stroganoff-Scherbatoff would have needed to have been deemed legally inoperative.  Additionally the panel would have needed to disregard both the Dutch government’s 1999 decision not to restore von Saher’s rights to the paintings, and its later statement that her claim to the paintings had “been settled.”

To view the Judges' opinion entirety, please download the file from the ARCA website here.

By:  Lynda Albertson

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

February 4, 2017

Conference - From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective.

University of Cambridge
Newnham College - Cambridge Lucia Windsor Room
Cambridge, UK 

March 23-24, 2017 

Cost: 35£ (25£ for students)
Attendees are asked to register by 1 March 2017 by emailing the conference organizers 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Opening remarks

Panel I. A Paradigm Shift? From Legal to Moral Solutions in Restitution Practice

Commentator: Victoria Louise Steinwachs (Sotheby’s London)

– Debbie De Girolamo (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Fair & Just Solutions – A Moniker for Moral Solutions?’

 – Tabitha I. Oost (University of Amsterdam), ‘Restitution policies of Nazi- looted art in The Netherlands and the UK. A change from a legal to a moral paradigm?’

 – Evelien Campfens (Leiden University), ‘Bridging the gap between ethics and law in looted art: the case for a transnational soft-law approach’

Panel II. Loosing Art/Loosing Identity: the Emotions of Material Culture

Commentator: Bianca Gaudenzi (Cambridge/Konstanz)

– Emily Löffler (Landesmuseum Mainz), ‘The J-numbers-collection in Landesmuseum Mainz. A case study on provenance, material culture, & emotions’

 – Michaela Sidenberg (Jewish Museum, Prague), ‘Rescue/Ransom/Restitution: The struggle to preserve the collective memory of Czech and Moravian Jews’

 – Mary Kate Cleary (Art Recovery Group, New York), ‘Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: self-portraits of a woman artist as a refugee’

Roundtable I. From Theory to Practice: Provenance Research in Museums

Chair: Robert Holzbauer (Leopold Museum, Vienna)

– Tessa Rosebrock (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe), ‘Inventory records as a dead-end. On the purchases of French drawings by the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe from 1965 to 1990’

 – Laurel Zuckerman (Independent Researcher, Bry sur Marne), ‘Art Provenance Databases: Are They Fulfilling Their Promise? Comparative evaluation of ten major museum databases in the USA and the UK’

 – Shlomit Steinberg (Israel Museum, Jerusalem), ‘What started as a trickle turned into a flow- restitution at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem’

 – Emmanuelle Polack (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris), ‘Ethical issues regarding the restitution of Henri Matisse’s Blue Profile in front of the Chimney (1937) or Profil bleu devant la cheminée (1937)’

Friday March 24, 2017

Panel III. The Postwar Art Market: The Impact of a Changing World

Commentator: Richard Aronowitz-Mercer (Sotheby’s London)

– Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam), ‘Switzerland and Britain: Recontextualizing Fluchtgut’

 – Maike Brueggen (Independent Provenance Researcher, Frankfurt), ‘Arthur Kauffmann – dealing German art in post-war London’

 – Nathalie Neumann (Independent Researcher, Berlin), ‘Have the baby born in England!’ The trans-European itinerary (1933-1941) of the art collector Julius Freund’

 – Diana Kostyrko (Australian National University, Canberra), ‘Mute Witness: the Polish Poetess’

Panel IV. Restitution Initiatives and Postwar Politics in the United Kingdom

Commentator: Simone Gigliotti (Royal Holloway University of London)

– Elizabeth Campbell (University of Denver), ‘Monuments Woman: Anne O. Popham and British Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art’

 – Marc Masurovsky (Holocaust Art Restitution Project), ‘Operation Safehaven (1944-49): Framing the postwar discussion on restitution of Nazi looted art through British lenses’

 – Angelina Giovani (Jewish Claims Conference - Jeu de Paume Database), - A case study: ‘Looting the artist: The modern British paintings that never came back from France’

Panel V. Conflicting Interests: Restitution, National Politics and Vergangenheitsbewältigung across Postwar Europe

Commentator: Lisa Niemeyer (Independent Researcher, Wiesbaden)

– Ulrike Schmiegelt-Rietig (Wiesbaden Museum), ‘Pechora monastery, Russian collection looted by ERR and landed in Wiesbaden CCP’

 – Jennifer Gramer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), ‘Dangerous or Banal? Nazi Art & American Occupation in Postwar Germany and US’

 – Agata Wolska (Independent researcher, Krakow), ‘The Vaucher Committee as International Restitution Body – the Abandoned Idea’

 – Nicholas O’Donnell (Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Boston), ‘Comparison of statutory & regulatory origins of restitutionary commissions in Germany, Austria, NL & UK after WWII’

Roundtable II. From Theory to Practice: Provenance & the Art Market

Chair: Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam)

– Friederike Schwelle (Art Loss Register, London), ‘The difference between US and UK in resolving claims for Nazi looted art’

 – Isabel von Klitzing (Provenance Research & Art Consulting, Frankfurt) and Pierre Valentin (Constantine Cannon LLP, London), ‘From Theory to practice – when collectors want to do the right thing?’

April 28, 2016

Who stole and where are the (still) missing Führerbau paintings

By: Marc Masurovsky
Holocaust Art Restitution Project

On this day, 71 years ago, while the US 3rd Army met light to moderate resistance as it overran Munich, unknown individuals made off with more than 700 paintings, mostly Old Masters, from the Führerbau - translated as "the Führer's building, Adolf Hitler's administrative building on Arcisstraße in Munich.

Photo Clipping, Life Magazine, 

During the period of American military occupation, the Munich Central Collecting Point transformed the Führerbau into a central clearinghouse for assessing the origin of thousands of art objects looted across Europe.
To date, the theft has not been resolved.

The Zentral Institut fur Kunstgeschichte, housed in the old Führerbau building, has been working to reconstruct this historic theft, under the guidance of Prof. Christian Fuhrmeister and Dr. Stephan Klingen, director of the Fototek at the ZI, with Dr. Meike Hopp, a formidable art historian and provenance expert regarding the fate of art looted in Germany.

April 18, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016 - , No comments

Three Italian Renaissance Paintings Stolen by the Nazis in 1944 Have Been Recovered

By:  Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

Three 15th century Italian Renaissance paintings, seized from a villa of the then Prince of Luxembourg by Nazi forces operating in Camaiore, Italy in 1944, have been recovered by Italy's art crime police, the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale.  Presented in an exhibition in Brera announcing their recovery, the paintings had been siezed by German forces after Italy entered World War II, when Luxembourg had been declared an enemy state and allowed for property seizure under wartime law.

In a press conference held today in the Sala della Passione in the paintings gallery of the Academy of Brera, Riccardo Targetti, the public prosecutor of Milan, and Alberto Deregibus, the deputy commander of the Carabinieri TPC unit, presented the three stolen works of art which have been missing since World War II and which had been recovered during a lengthy investigation dating back to December 2014, when the first painting was identified by law enforcement authorities in the Monza home of a Milan-based family.

The paintings recovered are:

a tempera on wood panel painting depicting the Trinity (60x38,5 cm) attributed to Alesso Baldovinetti (1425-1499), an Italian early Renaissance painter

an oil painting on canvas depicting a Madonna and Child (65x51 cm) attributed to Cima da Conegliano, birth name: Giovanni Battista Cima  (1460-1518), a Venetian Renaissance painter

an oil painting on canvas depicting depicting Christ's Circumcision and Presentation at the Temple (83x101 cm)  by Girolamo Dai Libri (1474-1555) a Verona-based an Italian illuminator of manuscripts and painter of altarpieces who worked in the early-Renaissance style.

Archive photo of the family of Prince Felix
and Luxembourg's Grand Duchess Charlotte 
While the press conference did not specify which members of the Luxembourg noble family were heirs to the three missing paintings, a trace of the Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points ("Ardelia Hall Collection"): Selected Microfilm Reproductions and Related Records, 1945-1949, Restitution Files Of MFAA Section - Berlin, 1956 › Claims-Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway give us a clue.

As the attached photos clarify the stolen paintings were most part of the collection owned by Prince Felix of Luxembourg who requested formal assistance from the allied forces in recovering 18 art treasures belonging to the Prince Consort of Luxembourg Royal Household stolen by German troops in 1944 during the allied offensive.  The paintings were removed from the Chateau de Pianore, at Capezzano di Camaiore new Viareggio, Province of Lucca, Italy.

February 7, 2014

The Monuments Men: George Clooney's Movie Opened in North American Theaters Today, Think "Oceans 12" meets "The Train"

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

The morning screening of George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" in Pasadena today attracted a larger audience that other art crime related recent films ("The Trance" and "The Missing Piece". This movie is not a foreign film or a documentary (for that you can see "The Rape of Europa" on Netfix or DVD) but a Hollywood project populated by popular film actors such as John Goodman, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett. After a sobering opening of the dismantling of the Ghent Altarpiece, the gathering of the Monuments Men team leads me to describe the film quickly as "Oceans 12" meets "The Train" featuring another handsome actor, Burt Lancaster, and both of those movies reached a wide audience.

As for a 'review' of this movie, I prefer overheard comments. During the closing credits, the woman sitting next to me offered her unsolicited opinion: "Leave it to Clooney to find this and bring it to us." Overheard from a stall in the women's restroom: "If nothing else, it gets you interested enough to investigate it."

I'm not going to ruin your entertainment by talking about what happens in the film so let me discuss some of the questions I had leaving the theater: Did any of the real members of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (informally known as the Monuments Men) die while searching to recover the art Hitler had systematically stolen from European museums and private Jewish collections (the answer is yes)? The Monuments Men website, sponsored by Robert Edsel, viewable on this page lists members of the MFAA and is trying to gather biographical information and photographs to commemorate those who served.

What is the true story of saving Michelangelo's Bruges Madonna and Child? How did the Monuments Men really find the salt mine hiding the art masterpieces? Were the Soviets in the Trophy Brigade really on the trail of the Monuments Men racing to recover art that would not be returned to European countries but be used as compensation for the 20 million plus Russian lives lost during the war? And I want to know everything about Rose Valland, the French woman initially jailed as a Nazi conspirator for her work in the Jeu de Paume where Nazis collected and confiscated Jewish art collections.

You'll have some questions of your own to add. As for me, I'm diving back into my iBook copies of The Rape of Europa (Lynn Nicholas) and The Monuments Men (Robert M. Edsel with Brett Witter) until I can take my kids back to the see the movie -- because even my teenagers have said they'll see the George Clooney movie on art theft.


ARCA blog subscriber Paul Lahaie, Massachusetts, wrote in with his observations: The movie does a fairly decent job of following the book. Battle scenes, showing how the Monuments Men [via personal letters to their wives] battling military bureaucracy and achieving more than anyone thought they would. The book and move critics say the same thing -- not enough art. Tough! The audience clapped until the end of the film credits.

Here the University of Iowa profiles Monuments Man George Stout, an UI alum and the future director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

January 3, 2014

Friday, January 03, 2014 - , No comments

Resistance fighter and Paris art dealer René Gimpel died on this day in a concentration camp in 1945

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

On this date, January 3, in 1945, Paris art dealer René Gimpel (born 1881), brother-in-law of the art dealer Joseph Duveen, died in Neungamme concentration camp.

In The Rape of Europa, Lynn Nicholas recounts that René Gimpel, had traveled the year before his death to Geneva to see an exhibit of paintings from the Museo Nacional del Prado in Barcelona after General Franco paused 'bombing operations so that the paintings could be removed' to safety during the Spanish Civil War:
In an extraordinary international effort, a Committee for the Salvage of Spanish Art Treasures, cooperating with the League of Nations, as well as French and British cultural agencies, backed by private money raised in a little more than twenty-four hours from collectors in Europe and America, organized a truck convoy to move the collection to France. There the precious cases were loaded on a special twenty-two-car train and taken to a Geneva, where they were exhibited in a show not likely to be equalled, for these are things which never normally travel, and certainly not en mass: all the great Velázquezes, Bruegel's Triumph of Death, 26 El Grecos, 38 Goyas, Dürer's Self-Portrait: 174 paintings in all.
Anyone who could, from Kenneth Clark and Bernard Berenson to Matisse and Picasso, travelled the long road to see it. Late in August one of the last visitors, the Paris dealer René Gimpel, wrote in his diary [on August 24 from Geneva, in the second to last entry of his journal]:
The conflagaration is not far from bursting in upon us. We have been here for forty-eight hours to see the Prado Exhibition... Death hangs over our heads, and if it must take us, this last vision of Velázquez, Greco, Goya, Roger van der Weyden, will have made a fine curtain.
Gimpel's book, Journal d'un Collectionneur (Diary of an art dealer, 1966, English translation by Joseph Rosenberg), recounted the art world between the wars 1918-1939, citing sales and prices of art, giving his opinions in brief posts like this one on 'March 12, 1918/Fake painting':
A fake Gainsborough, a Blue Boy, has just been knocked down at the Hearn sale in New York for more than $32,000. It's harder to sell a genuine painting.
Gimpel wrote on March 25, 1924, under the heading "Vandals":
A specialist in Egyptian art has told me that he is waiting for a large Egyptian statue. To get it out of Egypt, it was cut into forty-six pieces, and the work of reconstitution is being done in Paris. This happens every day.
His last entry: "September 3/Paris, We're at war."

Sir Herbert Read writes in the introduction of the 1966 translated journal that René Gimpel's father, who established the family gallery in Paris in 1889, had been an Alsatian 'who had come to the French capital because as a French citizen he could not tolerate the terms of the Treaty of 1871':
René Gimpel was imbued with the same spirit of revolt, and during the Second World War he and his sons were to participate actively in the Resistance. René was eventually interned by the Vichy authorities for his underground activities, released in 1942 but then re-arrested by the Germans. In prison he taught English to his fellow prisoners, to prepare them, as he said, for the liberation. He was sent with a convoy to Germany and suffered great hardships under which his healthy finally broke down. 
Louis Martin-Chauffier, fellow-prisoner in Neuengamme concentration camp toward the end of 1944, described his end in a letter written some years later to Jean Guehenno (quoted in M. Guehenno's Preface to the original French edition of the journal): "Physically he was no more than a shadow of his former self, as was usually the case with all of them, but morally he had not changed, and that is infinitely rarer. Knowing that he was soon to die, he continued as if nothing was happening, to speak of life and to give to his companions, overwhelmed by exhaustion, despair, and disgust, the example of the serenity of a man who, having nothing more to lose and having done what he can, is left with only one duty, which is not to flinch and to help others."
René Gimpel's papers are archived at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.

November 13, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - ,, No comments

ARCA Founder Noah Charney Publishes in The Guardian on the Question: "Did the Nazis steal the Mona Lisa?"

This is the photograph by Jean-Pierre-Muller Javier
Sorrian/AFP/Getty Images of the Louvre's Mona Lisa
 and the copy housed at Madrid's Prado Museum. guardian  
Here's a link to an article in today's Guardian, Did the Nazis steal the Mona Lisa?, written by Noah Charney, founder of ARCA. The article was adapted from Charney's book, The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting.
With the recent discovery in Munich of €1bn (£860m) worth of art looted by the Nazis, and the forthcoming release of a feature film, starring George Clooney, based on the exploits of the Monuments Men, it is a fitting time to recall how fortunate we are that so much art survived thesecond world war. The Nazi art theft division, the ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg), was responsible for the theft of around 5m works: from the Louvre, the Uffizi and countless churches, galleries and homes. From headline-grabbing works like Michelangelo's Bruges Madonna to the most frequently stolen artwork in history, Jan van Eyck's Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, both of which feature in the Clooney film, to lesser-known gems that nevertheless held a place in the hearts of museumgoers or families, the story of art looting during the second world war is a tree with countless roots. Each masterpiece has its own history, a provenance ripe with intrigue. Few of the individual stories have been told, fewer still in depth.
Among the many enduring mysteries of this periodis the fate of the world's most famous painting. It seems that Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa was among the paintings found in the Altaussee salt mine in the Austrian alps, which was converted by the Nazis into their secret stolen-art warehouse. 
The painting only "seems" to have been found there because contradictory information has come down through history, and the Mona Lisa is not mentioned in any wartime document, Nazi or allied, as having been in the mine. Whether it may have been at Altaussee was a question only raised when scholars examined the postwar Special Operations Executive report on the activities of Austrian double agents working for the allies to secure the mine. This report states that the team "saved such priceless objects as the Louvre's Mona Lisa". A second document, from an Austrian museum near Altaussee dated 12 December 1945, states that "the Mona Lisa from Paris" was among "80 wagons of art and cultural objects from across Europe" taken into the mine.
You may read the rest of the article here.

November 5, 2013

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 - No comments

Gurlitt Art Collection: German magazines Focus and Der Spiegel Online report on the 'Nazi treasure' of 'masterpiece paintings' found two years ago

Cover of Focus
By Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

On Sunday, November 3, Museum Security Network, under the leadership of the new moderator Alice Farren-Bradley, sent out a Dutch article about a story from the German Focus reporting the discovering of a Nazi treasure of masterpiece paintings worth billions.

The Munich magazine, Focus -- founded in 1993, edited by Helmut Markwort, and a competitor of Der Spiegel -- published this article in its November issue (in German) alleging that two years ago Bavarian customs (Bayerische Zollfahnder) discovered 1,500 works by artists such as Picasso, Chagall and Matisse confiscated during the Third Reich were amongst the trash in the apartment of 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of art historian and dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. According to Focus, Cornelius Gurlitt raised suspicion carrying a large amount of cash on him on a train between Switzerland and Munich in September 2010. The following spring, Focus writes, investigators searched Gurlitt's apartment in Munich and discovered prints, etchings, engravings and paintings between mountains of rotten food and decades old tin cans. Focus reported that Bavarian customs now have the paintings and that Berlin art historian Dr. Meike Hoffmann is trying to determine the origin and value of the paintings. According to Focus, after the raid in the Spring of 2011, Cornelius Gurlitt sold a painting by Max Beckmann for 864,000 Euros through the Lempertz auction house in Cologne. According to Focus, one of the paintings found was Henri Matisse's Portrait of a Woman from the collection of Parisian art dealer Paul Rosenberg, the grandfather of French journalist Anne Sinclair and American lawyer Marianne Rosenberg.

In The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1994), Lynn H. Nicholas recounts that Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt, the director of the Zwichau Museum, 'was fired in 1930 for "pursuing an artistic policy affronting the healthy folk feeling of Germany" when he exhibited modern artists. In 1938, Nicholas reports, Hildebrand Gurlitt was one of four 'well-known dealers' appointed to sell art designated as 'garbage' as declared by Nazi Joseph Goebbels and targeted by the Commission for the Exploitation of Degenerate Art. Nicholas identifies Gurlitt as a major buyer at 'the phenomenal sale of the late dentist Georges Viau's Impressionist collection on December 11-14' [1942]. Gurlitt is now 'one of the buyers for Linz' (Hitler's proposed Third Reich museum):
who in addition to the Cézanne [Vallée de l'Arc et Mont Ste.-Victoire] bought three other million-plus pictures: a Corot Paysage composé, Effet gris; a proscribed Pissarro; and for FFr 1.32 million a small Daumier Portrait of a Friend. The truth of the matter was that in France these "degenerate" works were among the hottest items in an overheated market and were being traded and bought to a large degree by those who had condemned them. 
Alas for Gurlitt, both the Cézanne and the Daumier were fakes. The good dentist, it seems, loved to "finish" oil sketches by well-known artists, and copy other works outright. The little Daumier was a copy of the real picture, which had also belonged to Viau, but been sold elsewhere; the Cézanne pure invention. It is now in the study collection of the Musée d'Orsay.
Hildebrand Gurlitt, according to Nicholas, was a trusted agent for Hermann Voss, appointed in March 1943 to purchase art from French Jewish collections.

In a follow up article, Focus asks if there are any other treasures hidden in Munich and notes that empty picture frames in the apartment suggested that Gurlitt had sold paintings from the collection he had hidden in his apartment. And in another article today, Focus readers question the secrecy of the investigation into the found art.

In today's Der Spiegel International online, under the headline "Nazi Plunder: 1,500 Modern Artworks Found in Munich Flat", the Focus investigation is translated into English, adding that Hildebrand Gurlitt was 'hounded' after the Nazis seized power 'because he had Jewish roots':
But thanks to his excellent contacts in the art scene, he was tasked with selling art works to overseas buyers that had featured in the landmark "Entartete Kunst" exhibition of 1937. Organized by the Nazis, it presented 650 works of art deemed "degenerate" that had been confiscated from German museums and effectively stolen from Jewish families. 
After the war, he maintained that the work had all gone up in flames when his home was destroyed in the Dresden firebombing of February 13, 1945. He died in a traffic accident in 1956.
It has now become clear that his extraordinary collection was probably bequeathed to his son, who over the last few decades has allegedly sold an unspecified number of artworks in Germany and Switzerland.
Focus reports that after the raid on the Munich apartment, the collection has been stored under lock and key at the customs office in Garching. An art historian told SPIEGEL ONLINE that she was hired 18 months ago to provide an expert assessment. On Monday, Chancellor Angela Markel's spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed that the German government had been informed of the matter several months ago, adding that public prosecutors in Augsburg had taken on the investigation. 
If the provenance of the art works cannot be established, Focus writes that they might still be returned to the suspect, because even the legal ownership of work known to have featured in the "Entartete Kunst" exhibition is unclear. For the time being, the man is only being investigated for tax evasion. 
But a statement once given by the art dealer's widow could prove crucial to the case. In the 1960s, she informed the authorities that all of her husband's treasures had been destroyed in the Allied firebombing of Dresden. She was specifically asked about the whereabouts of several paintings formerly owned by the Jewish collector Henri Henrichsen, including one work by Carl Spitzweg. Precisely this painting, and other documents related to it, popped up in the trash-filled Munich apartment. Given proof of a false statement, a legal case could now be used to forfeit the 80-year-old's ownership rights over the works. If the authorities succeed in doing that, the treasures would then be handed over to the state, or more specifically, to the Federal Minister of Finance.

November 23, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Review of Andrew Shea's documentary film "Portrait of Wally"

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Catherine Sezgin reviews Andrew Shea's documentary film Portrait of Wally:
A Nazi stole Egon Schiele's Portrait of Wally from the Vienna residence of Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray in 1939.  For three decades, until her death in 1969, Mrs. Jaray wanted to recovery her painting, even soliciting help from Dr. Rudolf Leopold, another Schiele expert and art collector who frequented her art gallery in London.
What Lea Bondi did not know was that Dr. Leopold had found her painting at the Belvedere Palace, amongst the works of the Austrian National Gallery.  The picture was mislabeled as Portrait of a Woman and identified as part of the collection of Dr. Heinrich Reiger, who had died in the Holocaust.  In the 1960s, Dr. Leopold traded another Schiele painting for the Portrait of Wally but instead of returning it to Bondi, he kept the stolen artwork for himself for more than three decades.
In 1997, Portrait of Wally was part of an Egon Schiele exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, where Lea Bondi's relatives recognized her painting.  Her nephew, Henry Bondi, requested that the museum return the stolen picture to the family.  When the museum denied the request, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau issued a subpoena to seize the painting before it could be shipped back to the Leopold Museum in Austria.
The dramatic 70-year-old battle to recover this painting is documented in the 90-minute film Portrait of Wally directed by Andrew Shea and produced by P. O. W. Productions.  This documentary uses film footage of Nazis in Austria and numerous interviews with the lawyers, journalists, and art collectors to explain an important legal case regarding the "last prisoners of World War II" (as described by Ronald Lauder, then Chairman of MoMA).
Catherine Sezgin is editor of the ARCA blog.

March 8, 2012

Lecture: Former LA Times Reporter Anne-Marie O'Connor Discussed Maria Altmann's Tale of Recovering Five Klimt Paintings from Austria at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog editor

Los Angeles - Tuesday night, across from the 405 Freeway where Bill Cosby's son Ennis was murdered while changing a tire in 1997, dozens of people were refused admittance to the lecture hall at the Skirball Center where Washington Post Correspondent Anne-Marie O'Connor was set to discuss her book, The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece (Knopf, 2012).

The Skirball Cultural Center, located just north of the Getty Center in Brentwood, is a difficult to reach institution so when people who had stood in line with reservations were refused admittance, you could hear stringent complaints to Zócalo Public Square that overbooked the free event.  Some people bought the hardcover copy of the book from the representative from Book Soup, who was redacting words on recycled paper to write poetry, and others left for dinner.  It's not easy to drive in evening traffic through either San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles on $5/gallon gas to be turned away from a must-see event.

I am telling you all of this so that you can understand the overwhelming interest in this fascinating book that Ms. O'Connor diligently worked on for years and quickly direct you to more efficient coverage of the material.  This is the story of life in Vienna before and during World War II; the beautiful Adele Bloch-Bauer, the subject of the painting; and the artist, Gustav Klimt, who grew up in poverty because his father couldn't make enough money engraving in gold.  O'Connor writes of the theft of the painting from the Jewish family that owned it, how the anti-Semetic government hid the identity of the portrait sitter, and Randy Schoenberg's stubborn fight for Adele's niece, Maria Altmann, to regain ownership of her family's paintings more than 50 years after the Nazis had stolen them.

Zócalo Public Square has posted a review of the lecture, photos and a video of the event here
KPCC's recent interview with the author is here; and you can read a book review in the Christian Science Monitor about this "epic" story.

November 9, 2011

The Collecting History of Stolen Art: Da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine"

Da Vinci's "Lady
 with an Ermine"
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog editor-in-chief

Leonardo Da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine created a sensation with the public in Berlin for the past few months during its first trip out of Poland since the masterpiece was recovered from the Nazis after the end of World War II.

Today it opened at the National Gallery in London as part of the exhibition, "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan". Conservationists have insisted that once the painting returns from London in February 2012 that it will remain in Krawków for at least ten years (The

In 1489, just some 20 years after artists began using oil paints, 37-year-old Da Vinci used oils when his employer, Lodovico "Il Moro" Sforza, the Duke of Milan, commission the Renaissance master to paint his 15-year-old mistress, Cecilia Gallerani, on a 21 by 15 inch walnut wood panel. When "Il Moro" married someone else, Cecilia had to leave the palace but took the portrait with her. "Il Moro gave her a dowry and a castle outside Milan where she spent the rest of her life with her husband Count Pergamino," according to the Czartoryski Museum.

Princess Isabela Czartorska founded the Czartoryski Museum in 1796. Two years later, her son, Prince Adam Jerzy, traveled to Italy and purchased Da Vinci's "The Lady with an Ermine" (and the still missing painting by Raphael "Portrait of a Young Man"). Condemned to death by the Russians after the 1830 November Uprising of the Russian-Polish war, Prince Jerzy fled to Paris, bought The Hotel Lambert, and set up the Living Museum of Poland (displaying all the objects from the first museum).

"Lady with an Ermine", which has only traveled cautiously since its return to Poland after World War II, traveled extensively in escaping to safety throughout various wars.

In 1871, after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Prince Jerzy's son packed or hid all of the museum's objects and fled. In 1874, the city of Krakow offered him a building and four years later the current museum opened.

To protect the works from war in 1914, the most important objects were taken to Dresden by the Czartorska family which continued to manage the museum. The collection was finally restored to the museum in Krakow in 1920.

In August 1939, on the eve of the invasion of Poland, cases of objects were hidden but later found by the Germans. In January 1940, 85 of the most important objects are sent back to Dresden to be part of Hitler's collection at Linz. The paintings went to Berlin then Neuhass before being claimed by the Polish representative at the Allies Commission for the Retrieval of Works of Art on behalf of the Czartoryski Museum (excluding the Raphael and 843 other artefacts).

The communist government operated the museum behind the Iron Curtain until 1991 when the museum was returned to its rightful owner, Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, who set up a foundation to oversee the museum today.

"The Lady with an Ermine" traveled to Milwaukee Art Museum in 2002 and to Houston and San Francisco in 2003. This year the painting traveled from Madrid to Berlin. 

November 7, 2011

Art Restitution: Klimt painting sold for $40.4m after being returned to owner's grandson

Klimt's "Litzlberg on the Attersee" 1918
by Catherine Schofiled Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

BBC News (online) reported 'Klimt painting fetches $40.4m' when a 1915 landscape of a lake in western Austria ("Litzlberg on the Attersee") by Gustav Klimt was sold by Sotheby's in New York City.

In July the Museum of Modern Art in Saltzburg in Austria returned the painting stolen from Amalie Redlich in 1941 to her 83-year-old grandson, Georges Jorisch, now living in Montreal.

"The Austrian law calls for restitution," Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, responded in an email.  "That means the object is physically returned to the rightful owner.  The position of the Salzburg Museum, much like that of the Leopold Foundation in Vienna, is to reject outright restitution in favor of financial settlements, which allow them to retain title to the claimed object. Ideologically speaking, that stance runs counter to the principle of restitution.  Hence, I would not hail this moment as a victory for restitution but rather as the outcome of an arduous negotiation between an auction house, a claimant, and an Austrian museum, which led to a financial settlement."

You may read more about this case as reported by the CBC, "Nazi-looted Klimt sells for $40" which includes a video and an image of the only descendent of the painting's owners sitting down in his chair at the painting's auction.  CBC concludes it's segment by mentioning that many of the proceeds from the painting's sale will be used to build a new wing at the Saltzburg museum to be named after Amalie Redlich who was murdered after her deportation from Vienna.

July 24, 2011

Elena Franchi on “Under the Protection of the Holy See: The Florentine Works of Art and Their Moving to Alto Adige in 1944”

Elena Franchi
Update: This is post has been republished with corrections.

On July 9, at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference, Elena Franchi presented her latest research on the protection of art in Florence during the Second World War, "Under the protection of the Holy See": the Florentine works of art and their moving to Alto Adige in 1944."

Ms. Franchi is the author of two books on the protection Italian cultural heritage during the Second World War: I viaggi dell’Assunta: La protezione del patrimonio artistico veneziano durante i conflitti mondiali, and Arte in assetto di guerra: Protezione e distruzione del patrimonio artistico a Pisa durante la seconda guerra mondiale. She has also been involved in a project on the study of the “Kunstschutz” unit. In 2009 she was nominated for an Emmy Award – “Research” for the American documentary The Rape of Europa, 2006, on the spoils of works of art in Europe during the Second World War.

"In Italy, at the beginning of the war in 1940, the movable works of art were subdivided into three classes of importance and sent to castles and villas in the countryside to protect them from the only danger to be expected: the air raids," Ms. Franchi told the audience. "The most important Florentine works of art were gathered in three deposits: Villa reale in Poggio a Caiano sheltered masterpieces from the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti; Villa reale della Petraia housed precious sculptures; and Palazzo Pretorio in Scarperia protected the main works of art coming from churches and private collections."

At the end of the first year of the war, Ms. Franchi said, Poggio a Caiano was filled up and other deposit sites needed to be set up to shelter the important works. By 1943, Florence's mobile patrimony resided protectively in more than 20 storage sites.

On July 10, 1943, the Allied Forces landed in Sicily in "Operation Husky", and launched the Italian Campaign. "A frenetic moving of works of art from one deposit to another suddenly started, under heavy bombardment, even though fuel and means of transportation were hard to find," Ms. Franchi said.

Fifteen days later, Benito Mussolini was dismissed and Marshal Pietro Badoglio was appointed to head the government in his place. After the Armistice declared on September 8th between Italy and the Allied armed forces, the situation of the deposits became increasingly risky, Ms. Franchi said. In those days two military units began to operate in Italy for the protection of cultural property: the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission (MFAA) by the Allied Commission for Italy and the German Kunstschutz. Frederick Hartt, responsible for the MFAA in Tuscany, declared at the end of the war: "Italian authorities had done almost everything possible to protect their country's treasure against bombardment."

According to Franchi, and contrary to what many believe, the Nazis did not always steal the art work around them. Franchi argued that in the case of Florence, the Kunstschutz unit, the German military unit created to protect cultural property, worked with Italians Carlo Anti, the General Arts Director in the Ministry of Education, and Carlo Alberti Biggini, the Minister of Education, to move as much as possible to the north of Italy (controlled by the Italian Social Republic with Mussolini and the German occupation).

In June 1944, Biggini ordered to move the main works of art of Florence and Siena to the north of Italy, far from the battle line. But the difficulties of his journey made it clear that it was impossible to carry such precious shipment to the north.

Despite this order, at the beginning of July, the German Army evacuated the precious works of art belonging to Florentine Galleries from the deposit of Montagnana, since the battle line was approaching. The German Army also evacuated the deposit of Oliveto, unbeknownst to the Kunstschutz, the Italian Ministry and the Superintendency.

Kunstschutz got on the trail of the missing works of art and removed the works of art from the deposit of Poggio a Caiano, that was under the protection of the Holy See.

At the end, the Florentine works of art removed by German Army and Kunstschutz were all moved to two deposits to Alto Adige, that were entrusted to the local Superintendent and to German Kunstschutz until the arrival of the Allies in 1945.

July 20, 2011

ARCA's 2011 IACC: Charlotte Woodhead on “Assessing the Moral Strength of Holocaust Art Restitution Claims”

By Molly Cotter, ARCA Intern

At ARCA's third annual International Art Crime Conference in Amelia on July 9, Charlotte Woodhead, Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick, shared her analysis of the numerous moral considerations of the United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel, which hears claims relating to World War II thefts of cultural objects.

Founded only in the year 2000 and keeping in mind the time bars involved in civil suits, the panel assesses and resolves claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era which is now held in UK national collections. Members of the panel, including lawyers, judges, professors, an art dealer and a baroness are appointed by the Secretary of State and consider both legal and non-legal obligations, such as the moral strength of the claimant’s case, and whether any moral obligation rests on the holding institution. In cases where the claimants received post-war compensation, the panel also considers any potential unjust enrichment were the object to be returned or a monetary reward offered. The public interest of a piece is also a factor in deciding whether to simply return the item or offer a reward.

The panel’s proceedings are an alternative to litigation, and its recommendations are not legally binding on any parties. However, if a claimant accepts the recommendation of the Panel, and the recommendation is implemented, the claimant is expected to accept this as full and final settlement of the claim.

Woodhead also discussed the difference between UK claim resolution and those of the Restitution Committee of the Netherlands. The British panel seeks restitution for art lost or stolen during the Nazi era (1933-1945) whereas the Dutch committee focuses on art lost in direct relation to the Nazi regime. Regardless of their differences, Woodhead stressed the importance of the existence of these panels saying “Nazi stolen art is different from stolen art as there is a wider cultural goal to right the wrongs of the past.”

March 14, 2011

"The Louvre: A Golden Prison" produced by Lucy Jarvis and NBC News in the 1960s hints at the plain sight hiding location of a large painting during the Nazi Occupation of Paris

Lucy Jarvis (Paley Center)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

During my almost sleepless flight to Paris last night, I watched again a charming video downloaded for free from iTunes: an NBC News produced one-hour show on the Louvre, narrated by Charles Boyer and produced by Lucy Jarvis titled "The Louvre: A Golden Prison" (1964). The Paley Center for Media writes this about the film:
"Jarvis next produced a dual tour of the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., Museum Without Walls, which aired on NBC in 1963. The logistically complex project—among the first to utilize telecommunications satellite technology—served as a forerunner to a more detailed exploration of the Louvre that Jarvis had in mind. The previous year she had accompanied Kennedy on a state visit to Paris and it was there, during a social event, that she had first broached the idea of a documentary about the hallowed institution to French President Charles de Gaulle and Minister of Culture André Malraux. In a feat comparable to getting approval to shoot inside the Kremlin, Jarvis finagled permission to bring a camera crew into the Louvre; when the museum’s curators expressed concern that the intense lights required to gain a proper exposure (for the sake of aesthetic, the film was shot in color on 35mm rather than the customary black and white 16mm) might damage their treasured paintings, Jarvis reassured them by saying, “If Khrushchev trusted me, why can’t you?” The color cinematography was an important element for Jarvis; indeed, General Sarnoff, chairman of NBC, the parent company of RCA, credited her programs on the Kremlin and the Louvre with helping to sell four million color television sets. The Louvre: A Golden Prison, airing in 1964, was recognized with a staggering number of awards, among them six Emmys, a Peabody, and a Radio-TV Critics Award. In 1968, Jarvis became the first woman—and one of the few Americans—ever to receive the French government’s prestigious Chevalière de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres."
In her introduction, Madame Jarvis speaks about how the curators emptied the Louvre prior to Nazi occupation of Paris. Yet one large painting, too big to move outside of the city, hung from the ceiling of a restaurant while Nazis dined below until the end of the war. What is the painting she is referring to? I would tell you but I don't recall in the video that they ever named the painting. I am wondering if one of our readers knows the answer.

March 12, 2011

Continued Discussion on Museum Guidelines for the Provenance of Nazi-Looted Art

Edgar Degas' "Landscape with Smokestacks" (Chicago Art Institute)
by Emily Blyze
ARCA Alum 2009

Part Two of Five in a special weekend series
Three major cases in the late 1990s shed light on the need for museums to have guidelines and policies on how to review their collections for Nazi-looted art.

Gutmann vs Searle: In 1995, Daniel Searle, a Board member of the Art Institute of Chicago, and then owner of the monotype pastel by Edgar Degas, Landscape with Smokestacks, received a claim from the family of Friedrich and Louise Gutmann, Dutch art collectors, who had owned the work prior to World War II. The case was settled in 1998. Searle, who purchased the work in good faith from a New York collector in 1987 on the Art Institute’s advice, had displayed the work on several occasions before receiving notice of the claim. Searle ceded a fifty percent (50%) ownership to the Art Institute and the other fifty percent (50%) was given to the Gutmann heirs, Lili Gutmann and her nephews, the Goodmans, who claimed the painting. As part of the settlement, the Art Institute purchased the Gutmanns’ half interest based on the current appraised value of the work.

Rosenberg vs Seattle Art Museum: The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) received a claim in 1997 from the Paul Rosenberg Family for the Henry Matisse painting, Odalisque. The SAM asked the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), a Washington, D.C.-based independent research organization, to conduct a thorough, scholarly and impartial investigation of the painting's provenance. Upon the HARP findings, the SAM returned the painting to the Rosenberg heirs.

The Leopold Schiele case: The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York received claims in 1997 for two paintings, Dead City III and Portrait of Wally, by Egon Schiele on loan from the Leopold Museum in Austria. The U.S. government confiscated the paintings under the National Stolen Property Act when it was on loan from the Leopold, claiming that the museum knew the Nazis had stolen the painting in 1939 from its Jewish owner, Lea Bondi. Dead City III was returned to the Leopold Museum because its former owner had no heirs. The Portrait of Wally case was settled in July 2010: the Leopold Museum paid $19 million to the estate of pre-war owner.

The American Association of Museum Directors (AAMD) established the Task Force on the Spoliation of Art during the Nazi/World War II era (1933-1945) on June 4, 1998. The Task Force recommended that museums review the provenance of their collections. The report's topics include a section entitled Statement of Principles, a section on Guidelines with subcategories that addressed Research Regarding Existing Collections, Future Gifts, Bequests, and Purchases, Access to Museum Records, Discovery of Unlawfully works of Art, Response to Claims Against the Museum, Incoming Loans, and a section with Database Recommendations. An Addendum was released April 30, 2001.

In 1998, the U.S. Federal Government held a series of congressional hearings, forming a Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the U.S. (PCHA) and hosted the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets. In connection with the conference, the “Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art” was released on December 3, 1998. Forty-four governments participated in developing a consensus of the 11 non-binding principles to assist in resolving Nazi-confiscated art issues.

The American Association of Museums (AAM) drafted their guidelines, Unlawful Appropriation of Objects during the Nazi Era, issued in 1999. In 2001, the AAM and AAMD, along with the PCHA, issued their reports defining the standards for disclosure of information and the creation of a searchable central registry of museum object information, as detailed in the AAM Recommended Procedures for Providing Information to the Public about Objects Transferred in Europe during the Nazi Era, adopted in May 2001.

On June 30, 2009, the European Union held a Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague and established the Terezin Declaration. The 46 participating nations endorsed the Terezin Declaration that strengthened and reaffirmed the Washington Principles and reinforced the need for continued provenance research. The Terezin Declaration maintains the non-binding nature of the Washington Principles, but also promotes an urgent need to strengthen and sustain the efforts of the principles. The sense of urgency is noted, but why the need for the Terezin Declaration? What can be accomplished with the Terezin Declaration that could not with the Washington Principles? A letter from the Ambassador Miloš Pojar, Chairman of the Organizing Committee states, “It is our moral and political responsibility to support the Holocaust remembrance and education in national, as well as international, frameworks and to fight against all forms of intolerance and hatred.”

The Terezin Declaration conveys a sense of urgency that was much less noticeable within the Washington Principles. Due to the advanced age of those persecuted, the education, remembrance, and the social welfare needs of Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution require a time of reflection on the need for tribute. The Terezin Declaration addresses the need to review current practices regarding provenance research and restitution and, where needed, to define new effective instruments to improve these efforts. The term “instrument” can be interpreted several different ways, including her, a working body constructed to carry out the mission of the Holocaust Era Assets Conference.

Part three will be posted tomorrow.