Showing posts with label World War II. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World War II. 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).

April 3, 2020

“to avoid the heavy toll of litigation” vs. righting an apparent wrong

In a decision Washington's National Gallery claims was done “to avoid the heavy toll of litigation” the gallery has agreed to return Picasso's pastel drawing "Head of a Woman" to the heirs of German-Jewish banker, Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. 

The descendants of the banking Mendelssohns (a branch of the family of composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) have long claimed that the artwork created by Picasso in 1903, belongs to them, believing that Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was pressured to sell the artwork as a result of the spread of Fascism and the Nazis coming into power in Germany in 1933.

Ousted from the Central Association of German Banks and Bankers in 1933, and then subsequently from the board of the Reich Insurance Office in 1934, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy sold the artwork “Head of a Woman” to dealer Justin K. Thannhauser in 1934.  He later died of heart failure on 10 May  1935.

Thannhauser, one of the most important dealers of modern European art, managed both the Munich gallery of his father, and a second gallery, Moderne Galerie in Berlin (1927–37) before relocating first to Paris in 1937, then after the outbreak of World War II, to Switzerland, and then to New York. 

The National Gallery listed the provenance of the artwork as follows:

Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Berlin, until 1937; Justin K. Thannhauser, New York; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York; (sale, Sotheby's, New York, 21 May 1981, no. 533); (sale, Sotheby's, London, 28 June 1988, no. 26); The Ian Woodner Family Collection, New York; (sale, Christie's, New York, 5 November 1991, no. 44, unsold); gift to NGA, 2001.

While there is no (direct) evidence that the American collector who donated the artwork to the Washington's National Gallery knew they were acquiring a forced sale Picasso, the combination of seemingly legitimate middlemen, and the zeal by which wealthy art collectors purchased renowned artists' artworks after World War II, alongside an unwillingness to ask probing questions of dealers and donors, had a predictable outcome. 

One has to ask though, with a 2001 donation date, why the one of Washington's most important museum institutions didn't look further into the pedigree of this creation, asking the tough questions they needed to ask, when accessioning this artwork into its collection. 

November 7, 2019

Exhibition commemorating the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht: Treasured Belongings: The Hahn Family & the Search for a Stolen Legacy

In commemoration of the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht, the state-sponsored pogrom known as the “Night of Broken Glass” which took place November 9-10, 1938, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is hosting an speaking engagement Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 7:00 pm featuring Dr. Michael Hayden, MC, OBC followed by the opening of a special exhibition which is then scheduled to remain at the centre for a little more than one year.

The event Kristallnacht Commemoration and Dr. Hayden's talk will be streamed online on Facebook tonight, November 7th at 7pm (PST).

November 8, 2019 – November 27, 2020
Wosk Auditorium, Jewish Community Centre Greater Vancouver
950 West 41 Avenue
VANCOUVER, BC October 23, 2019

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is an acclaimed teaching museum devoted to Holocaust based anti-racism education.  

Treasured Belongings: The Hahn Family & the Search for a Stolen Legacy brings together items from the Hahn archive alongside rich artefacts to detail the story of the family, their collection, and their descendants’ restitution efforts and exhibition speaks to timely themes of cultural loss, reconciliation and intergenerational legacy.

During Kristallnacht hundreds of synagogues in Germany and Austria were burned, Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, nearly 100 Jews were killed and 30,000 were sent to concentration camps.

Kristallnacht was a turning point in the Nazi persecution of European Jews and a defining moment for Max and Gertrud Hahn of Göttingen, Germany. 

Born in Göttingen, Germany in 1880, Max Hahn was a successful businessman, civic leader and passionate collector.  The Hahn’s Judaica collection was one of the most significant private collections in pre-war Europe, rivalling those of the Rothschild and Sassoon families. During the Kristallnacht pogrom, Max was arrested, and the Nazis proceeded to confiscate his silver Judaica and strip the family of their property and possessions. 

With the support of his wife, Gertrud, Max engaged in a lengthy battle to retrieve his stolen collection. While their children, Rudolf (later Roger Hayden) and Hanni, were sent to England for safety in 1939, Max and Gertrud were deported to Riga in December 1941, where they ultimately perished. Most of their collection was never recovered.

Roger’s son, Dr. Michael Hayden, MC, OBC, became immersed in his remarkable family history when he encountered photographs and documents left to him by his father. This original exhibition, developed by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, brings together items from the Hahn archive alongside rich artefacts and interviews to detail the story of the Hahn family, their collection, and their descendants’ restitution efforts. Involving extensive research and intensive negotiations with German museums and archives, the family’s ongoing search for their stolen collection speaks to timely themes of cultural loss, reconciliation and intergenerational legacy.

The Exhibition is supported by Michael and Sandy Hayden and children, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Vancouver, the Isaac and Sophie Waldman Endowment Fund of the Vancouver Foundation, Isaac and Judy Thau, Yosef Wosk, Audre Jackson, and the Goldie and Avrum Miller Memorial Endowment Fund of the VHEC.

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is Western Canada’s leading Holocaust teaching museum, reaching more than 25,000 students annually and producing acclaimed exhibitions, innovative school programs and teaching materials. The VHEC is a leader in Holocaust education in British Columbia, dedicated to promoting human rights, social justice and genocide awareness, and to teaching about the causes and consequences of discrimination, racism and antisemitism through education and remembrance of the Holocaust.

January 28, 2019

New Course in Provenance Research, Theory and Practice

Photo taken by Nazi authorities during World War II
showing a room filled with stolen art
at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris
Recognizing that reclaiming looted cultural assets can feel like a Sisyphean task, and that restitution cannot be accomplished without the practical knowledge of how to conduct critical research, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) and the US-based Holocaust Art Restitution Project, [Inc.] (HARP), have teamed up to offer its 3rd annual stand-alone provenance course which tackles the complex issues of cultural plunder.

Course Title: “Provenance and the Challenges of Recovering Looted Assets,”
Course Dates: June 19- 25, 2019 
Course Location: Amelia, Italy

Exhibition in the library of the Collecting Point, summer 1947
© Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Open to applicants interested in exploring the ownership history of looted cultural objects, their trafficking and their restitution/repatriation, this 5-day course will provide participants with exposure to research methodologies used to clarify and unlock the past history of objects likely to have been displaced in periods of crisis. It will also examine the complex nuances of post war and post conflict restitution and repatriation, as well as its ethical underpinnings.

Taught by Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of HARP, and former director of the Provenance Research Training Program at the Prague-based European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI), the course will provide participants with the opportunity to engage in an intensive, guided, dynamic exchange of ideas on research methods while highlighting the multiple diplomatic, political and financial challenges raised by restitution and repatriation claims. Special emphasis will also be placed on the contextual framework of provenance research in an era increasingly reliant on digital tools.

With an emphasis on an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, this provenance course will benefit anyone with an interest in art, art history, art collecting, the global art market writ large, museum and curatorial studies, art and international law, national and international cultural heritage policies.

As an added bonus participants accepted into the 5 day course will automatically registered be registered to attend ARCA’s Amelia Conference, June 21-23, 2019 a weekend-long forum of intellectual and professional exchange which explores the indispensable role of research, detection, crime prevention and criminal justice responses in combating all forms of art crime and the illicit trafficking in cultural property. 

For more information on the course, course fees and how to apply, please see this link.

January 27, 2018

ARCA- HARP - Provenance Research Training Course in Italy

Exhibition in the library of the Collecting Point, summer 1947
© Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) and the US-based Holocaust Art Restitution Project, [Inc.] (HARP), a not-for-profit group based in Washington, DC, dedicated to the identification and restitution of looted artworks, have teamed up to offer a unique short course in Amelia, Italy, this summer. This thematic course “Provenance and the challenges of recovering looted assets” will address cultural plunder, undoubtedly one of the thorniest issues facing the art world today.

Course Dates: June 20- 26, 2018  

Open to applicants interested in the restitution/repatriation of looted cultural objects and their trafficking, this 5-day course will provide participants with exposure to the research and ethical considerations of modern-day art restitution. As an added bonus students accepted to the course are automatically registered to attend ARCA’s Amelia Conference, June 22-24, 2018 a weekend-long forum for intellectual and professional exchange which explores the indispensable role of research, detection, crime prevention and criminal justice responses in combating all forms of art crime and the illicit trafficking in cultural property. 

“Provenance and the challenges of recovering looted assets”  will be taught by Marc Masurovsky, the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project and guest lecturers.  Mr Masurovsky is a historian, researcher, and advocate, specializing in the financial and economic underpinnings of the Holocaust and the Second World War. 

Born and raised in Paris, France, Mr. Masurovsky holds a B.A. in Communications and Critical Cultural Studies from Antioch College and an M.A. in Modern European History from American University in Washington, DC, for which his thesis was on “Operation Safehaven.” He worked at the Office of Special Investigations of the US Department of Justice researching Byelorussian war criminals, locating primary source documents, and interviewing war crimes suspects in North America and Western Europe. As a result of his early work on the transfers of looted assets from the Third Reich to the safety (safehaven) of neutral and Allied nations, Marc Masurovsky advised the Senate Banking Committee in the mid-1990s on the involvement of Swiss banks in the Holocaust, then lent his expertise to plaintiffs’ counsels suing Swiss banks on behalf of Holocaust survivors. 

Since 1997, Marc Masurovsky has focused his attention on the fate of objects of art looted by the Nazis and their Fascist allies. He has also played a major role in the January 1998 seizure of Egon Schiele’s “Portrait of Wally” and “Night City III” at the Museum of Modern Art of New York and was a director of research for the Clinton-era Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA). 

Since 2004, Marc Masurovsky has overseen the creation, development and expansion of a fully-searchable, public online database of art objects looted in German-occupied France that transited through the Jeu de Paume in Paris from 1940 to 1944. Marc Masurovsky is co-author of Le Festin du Reich: le pillage de la France, 1940-1944 (2006), and is working on a book on cultural plunder during the Nazi era and its impact on the international art market. 

For more information on the course and how to apply, please see the announcement linked above.

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.

November 12, 2016

Art Restitution: Tate Completes Restitution Process of Looted Constable Painting

Constable's 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' (1824) will be returned to
its heirs on the recommendation of the UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel
London’s Tate Museum has, at long last, restituted John Constable’s painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton to its rightful owners. The Tate returned the painting to the heirs of Baron Ferenc Hatvany, a Hungarian Jewish painter and art collector, after it emerged that the work had been looted during the second World War.  The painting was once part of  Baron Hatvany’s larger collection, one of the finest, if not the largest (a distinction belonging to the Herzog’s) art collections in Budapest.  By the early 1940s, his collection comprised of some 750-900 works of art.  

Hatvany was forced to store this, and several other artworks, in a Budapest bank vault against the threat of possible Allied bombing, before ultimately being forced to flee the city when the Nazis arrived. The Russian Army then entered Budapest in 1945 and seized the Hatvany collection, leading to long-standing legal disputes over the property rights of many of the pieces of artwork it contained.

The heirs of Baron Hatvany filed a claim with Britain's eight-member Spoliation Advisory Panel — a panel created by the British government to mediate looting claims on art works in public institutions in 2013—after someone recognized the Constable painting as having been looted whilst visiting the Tate's London collection in 2012. 

In May 2014, at the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three of Hatvany’s heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland.  Then, alarmingly, the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

SAP met again in September 2015 to reexamine the original facts in the case, along with the added Hungarian Museum documentation, and in a lengthy 81-page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.” SAP then once again urged the return of the painting to the Baron’s heirs.

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery and represents the three Hatvany heirs, has said that the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is unfortunately often the case when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale. The heirs of WWII looted art are often numerous or often, not necessarily wealthy.  Sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artworks is to witness its sale.

Baron Ferenc Hatvany’s Constable painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th.  It is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

By: Summer Clowers

At the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland in May 2014.  Then alarmingly the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel met again in September 2015 and reexamined the facts in the case along with the added documentation and in a length 81 page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.”

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery, who represents the three Hatvany heirs since 2012 has said the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is often the case, when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale.  The painting will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th and is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

Because the heirs of the looted art are numerous or not necessarily wealthy, sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artwork is to witness its sale. 

November 3, 2016

There's money to be made from suffering: The collection history of a recovered Monuments Men artwork, returned to the heirs, then sold, then sold again, and soon to be sold (yet) again

According to some statistics, less than 20 percent of the value of Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators has been restored.

ARCA highlights the lifespan of one.

Painted Crucifix
Giovanni da Rimini
Active in Rimini 
1292 - 1336
Egg tempera on cruciform panel
160.5 by 130 cm.

Collection History/Provenance 

Possibly Achillito Chiesa, Esq. of Milan collection, 
Frederick Muller, Amsterdam 
Enrico Testa

With Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam, inv. no. 2212, by 1929 .  

Goudstikker, the now famous second-generation Jewish Dutch art dealer fled the Netherlands in 1940 along with his wife Désirée von Halban Kurz and their son Edo following the country's invasion by Nazi Germany. 

While crossing the English channel on the SS Bodegraven, Jacques fell to his death through an uncovered hatch on the deck of the ship. Inconveniently his executor, Dr. A. Sternheim, also died around this same time and the entire Goudstikker collection (1,113 numbered paintings and an unknown quantity of unnumbered paintings) were sold to Nazi leader Hermann Wilhelm Göring despite the objections of Goudstikker's widow.  

The forced sale price:   a measly two million guilders, a small fraction of the collection's actual value.

13 July 1940  - the artwork is transferred to Carinhall by Walter Hofer for Hermann Göring (inv. no. 392).

 Museum and exhibition labels from the reverse side
of the panel painting

Photo of Jacques Goudstikker
from RKDarchives.
Afterwards, the panel painting was recovered by the "Monuments Men", a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (“MFAA") section under the auspices of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied Armies during World War II.  The recovered artwork was then forwarded to the Munich Central Collecting Point (inv. no. 6294) on August 2, 1945. 

After being documented, the panel painting was delivered to the Nederlands Kunstbezit, earlier known as the Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit at The Hague (inv. no. NK1485) on November 7, 1945. 

As Marc Masurovsky, Co-Founder of  the Holocaust Art Restitution project has said "in an ideal world, the cost of seeking restitution of a Nazi-looted art object should not be a hindrance to achieving justice."

But the economics of restitution is never easy. The legal expenses of restitution to von Saher for the return of her family’s objects totalled some USD $10.4 million, a fee most World War II claimants cannot afford, even when the works of art are high in value as was the case in this circumstance. As a consequence, the painting was put on the auction block. 

On July 05, 2007 the cross, Lot 7, is sold for USD $125,362 via Christie’s London and is acquired by Old Master dealer, Fabrizio Moretti of Moretti Fine Art galleries in Florence, London, and New York. 

On January 29, 2015 the cross is again sold as Lot 131 for USD $245,000 via Sotheby's New York to an unnamed buyer, who apparently is still represented by the Italian Old Masters firm as it is still being marketed under the umbrella of Moretti Fine Arts.  

Image from Moratti Fine Art’s
Facebook Page

And the clack of an auctioneer's hammer continues.

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.

July 17, 2015

LIFE and times: a look back on the destruction of Italian cultural heritage in WWII

By Hal Johnson, ARCA 2014 alumnus and DNA Consultant
Timing can be everything. I had just returned home to Chicago a week after attending this year’s conference in Amelia. Not long after leaving the airport my family told me about an old issue of LIFE magazine awaiting me at home (Figure 1). Dated 24 July 1944, it contained an article about the destruction of Italian art during World War II. What better tie-in to the ARCA conference, since several speakers addressed the loss of cultural property amidst the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria? It was an opportunity to put current events in perspective. 
The Allied invasion of Italy was well underway by the summer of 1944. Rome had already been liberated by Allied forces, who were continuing to advance toward German defensive lines in northern Italy. Southern Italy was secure and damage assessments had begun. Despite efforts by Allied command to preserve monuments and art whenever possible, not everything in Italy could be spared. Photojournalist George Silk was sent to document the destruction of churches in three Campanian cities – Capua, Naples and Benevento – for this LIFE photo-essay, entitled War Ravages Italy’s Art: Allies Try to Save Great Relics.    
A previous issue of LIFE (10 January 1944) printed a story about Nazi looting in Italy. This edition, however, addressed the conundrum faced by General Eisenhower and his commanders throughout their invasion of Europe: “…which is more precious: life itself or the living cultural traditions that give life much of its meaning.” Collateral damage was inevitable, but Silk’s photos underscored the salvage of church art and architecture that was already taking place (Figures 2-5). The article also makes a reference to the wartime art specialists we now know as “monuments men.” I don’t know if this is their earliest mention in mainstream media, but the passage is certainly worded to inform the home front about a new Allied mission:
“The British and U.S. governments have set up a group of experts to carry on the work of art preservation. The experts have prepared maps for bombing missions, carefully plotting the location of art treasures so that the bombers can avoid any unnecessary destruction. Once a town is captured, the art experts quickly move in to minimize damage. They erect scaffoldings to support shaken walls and ceilings, put up temporary roofs to protect interiors from rain and weather, gather all rubble together so it can be sifted for valuable fragments that can be used later to reconstruct damaged works. They have already helped compile a record of every important movable piece of Italian art, including all of the Nazi loot. This list will help to return to the pillaged towns many of their priceless paintings and sculptures.” 
Why would someone reading the news care about the shelling of a church halfway around the world? Funny how the same question could be posed to readers in both 1944 and 2015. And yet I think our grandparents and great-grandparents did care about the suffering of art in WWII Italy. Not because our greatest generation was made up of art lovers, but because of the unity that comes from a common purpose. Everyone was deeply invested in the Second World War. One only has to look at news, advertisements, pop culture and public service announcements from that era to understand that the war effort pervaded every aspect of their lives. I have this LIFE magazine today because my great Grandpa Myers used them to compile his own scrapbook of the war as it happened. Countless other civilians did the same.       
Today’s monuments men are often civilians with little or no access to the conflict zones where art is being destroyed. Or else they are a courageous few on the inside who risk their lives to save their people’s heritage. All of them are repeatedly called on to justify their cause. At best their audience is a society focused on issues closer to home. At worst they are faced with indifference. Sadly, foreign wars have become something that is easy to ignore if you choose to do so. My generation (and subsequent generations) of Americans can’t relate to the collective efforts of those who lived during the world wars. Unless you actually know men and women on active duty, war has become something you can switch off with your remote control or a click of the mouse. It is both a luxury and a shortcoming of our time.
The best way to interest people in 21st century cultural heritage protection may be through grassroots efforts. Start at home. Engage your friends and loved ones. Seek out local art groups or historical societies and inform them about these issues. Build networks, however small they may seem at first! It all adds up. 
In that vein, I’d like to thank my mother for bringing the LIFE magazine article to my attention. Thanks also to my friend (and fellow 2014 ARCA alum) Bryce McWhinnie for uploading it into the research database at the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art.

May 9, 2015

Art Restitution: Van Dyck’s Triple Portrait of King Charles I stolen from Castle Kronberg during World War II by American servicemen to be returned to Frankfurt

From The New York Times: Brandon Thibodeaux's photo of
King Charles I in Three Positions
by Judge Arthur Tompkins

The New York Times’ Tom Mashberg is reporting the return of five artworks, originally brought by US servicemen back to the United States after World War II, to the Anhaltische Gemäldegaleriem, in Dessau. Included in the five works is one described as “an unattributed copy of a triple portrait of King Charles I of England, originally painted by Anthony van Dyck in 1636 to help Bernini create a sculpture of the king”. Mashberg reports that this work was stolen from Castle Kronberg outside Frankfurt, and was being returned by:
“Michael R. Holland, a retired house builder from Montana, who said he found them in the safe deposit box of his aunt, Margaret I. Reeb, after her death. A note in the box from Mrs. Reeb, a member of the Women’s Army Corps who had served in Germany, said she bought them there just after the war. Family lore, Mr. Holland said, has it that Mrs. Reeb, who died in 2005 and was a wartime acquaintance of Eleanor Roosevelt, bought the works from American soldiers who approached her in a Nuremberg hotel for some quick cash.”
The story caught my eye because the original painting, which is now in the UK’s Royal Collection  has a fascinating story all of its own:

Sir Athony van Dyck (1599-1641) - Charles I (1600-1649)
The Royal Art Collection, oil on canvas
Queen's Drawing Room, Windsor Castle
In the early 1630s, King Charles I was busy cementing his place as omnipotent English monarch. He had been crowned King of England in a sumptuous ceremony, and in June 1633 he was likewise crowned King of Scotland. His queen -- a quiet but persistently devout Catholic -- Henrietta Maria, so memorably portrayed by Van Dyck in such overtly political family portraits as The Great Place and in intimately affectionate portraits such as his Charles I and Henrietta Maria, was carefully trying to strengthen ties between England and Rome, and to prepare the ground for the arrival in London of the first Papal envoy since Henry VIII’s time.

As so often happened during Charles’s reign, the delicate diplomatic dance was executed, in part, by artistic means. In mid 1635, Charles and his queen commissioned Van Eyck, now firmly ensconced as Charles’ favourite painter, to prepare a portrait that they would send to Pope Urban VIII in Rome. Thus would then able the Pope to commission his own favourite sculptor, Gianlorenzo Bernini (memorably labelled by Robert Hughes as the “marble megaphone of the Renaissance”), to carve a life-size bust of Charles, which the Pope would then give as a gift to Queen Henrietta Maria, symbolizing (so the Pontiff hoped) closer ties and perhaps heralding the ultimate submission of the English Crown to the throne of St Peters.

Drawing inspiration from Lorenzo Lotto’s Portrait of a Man in Three Positions, then in the Royal Collection (now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), Van Eyck executed the sublime triple portrait of King Charles, both embodying his character and pensive but unshakeable hope for the future, and giving Bernini everything he needed to create his marble bust.

The Portrait was sent to Rome. Bernini wove his sculptural magic. The result arrived back in England in the summer of 1637, but not without significant travails and perils: the bust was packed into a wooden case, and one Thomas Chambers spent three remarkable months bringing it across Europe on boats, horses and mules, besting pirates, robbers and corrupt border guards en route.

It received a rapturous welcome when it was unpacked, and drew a promise from Queen Henrietta Maria that a fabulous diamond ring would immediately be sent to the Pope’s nephew, and which would end up being given to Bernini himself. Suspicious and opportunistic Puritans encouraged a forlorn and probably spurious rumor that the bust was stained, and would only become pure when Charles converted to Catholicism. Much later, an opportunistic broker who had profited as Charles acquired his magnificent collection, but who was then keen to rewrite history and curry favour with the Puritans, invented a fantastical prediction of the coming execution, by the bust being stained with miraculous blood:
“ … his own statue graved in Marble, which was newly brought from Rome … being set forth three drops of blood fell on the face of it … though the stains of the same could never be gotten off since.”
In the meantime, and despite any such divine imperfections or portents, Charles was delighted with the bust, especially given that it was created by the Pope’s favoured sculptor, who would otherwise have been inaccessible to the increasingly artistically astute and sophisticated but still resolutely Protestant, Charles.

And then it all came crashing down.

On a chilly January morning in 1649, and wearing two shirts so that any shivers brought on by the cold would not be mistaken for fearful trembling, Charles was executed, under authority of a Death warrant signed by the 59 men who would become known to history as the Regicides. It is unclear whether the irony of the execution taking place outside The Banqueting House in London, whose ceiling was (and is) adorned by magnificent, and politically powerful, paintings by Rubens commissioned by Charles over a decade earlier, was noted at the time.

Following his death, the Commonwealth set about valuing and selling off “the Late King’s goods” to raise funds for a severely cash-strapped Treasury. And amongst the art works sold during a chaotic, corrupt and ultimately largely unsuccessful asset sale process, was Bernini’s bust. By 1651 it was in a slightly down-at-the-heel and crowded impromptu dealership owned by one Emmanuel de Critz, one of many that sprung up all over London as the King’s art flooded onto the newly created, and never before seen, open art market. “The King’s head in white marble done by Bernino at Rome” was on display in a cramped house in Austin Friars, with a price tag of £400.

That asking price must have been too high. In May 1660, following the unforeseeable (in 1651) lurch of history that saw Charles II restored to the English Throne following years spent wandering Europe in beggarly exile after his defeat in battle by Oliver Cromwell in September 1651, Charles II set about swiftly and ruthlessly reclaiming his father’s art. In a staggeringly audacious lie, de Critz petitioned the new King for back pay of £4000 and, amazingly, £1200 for costs incurred in acquiring and looking after the late King’s art, including the Bernini bust. History does not record what response this petition triggered. De Critz himself died of the plague in 1665.

On 5 January 1698, the novelist and diarist John Evelyn noted in his diary: “Whitehall burnt! Nothing but walls and ruins left.”

That day the bulk of what had been the largest palace in Europe, exceeding both Versailles and the Vatican in size, and at its zenith, comprising 1500 rooms, was destroyed. Only the Banqueting Hall remains more or less intact, but Bernini’s Bust of Charles 1 disappeared.

As for the portrait? Bernini kept hold of it, but eventually it ended up back in the Royal Collection, returning to the fold in 1822. The Royal collection’s Provenance Statement records:
Painted for Bernini about 1637 from which he was to execute a bust and sent to Rome. Collections: Bernini family; Mr Irvine: Walsh Porter; Mr Wells. Purchased by George IV in 1822 from Mr Wells for 1000 guineas. 
Judge Arthur Tompkins of New Zealand will return to Amelia this summer to teach "Art in War" for ARCA's 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

August 3, 2013

Anna A. Perl on "Poland's Restitution Efforts in the United States" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

In the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Anna A. Perl writes on "Poland's Restitution Efforts in the United States":
During the Second World War Polish public and private art collections suffered tremendous losses due to theft, confiscation, coercive transfer and looting by the Germans and Soviets. The recent restitution efforts undertaken by Poland's government in the United States are presented against a historical background. The article recognizes the difficulties encountered throughout the restitution process, resulting inter alia from large-scale destruction of records, lapse of time, complexities of provenance research, and intersection of international and national legal systems. The analysis examines legal remedies, which are available to original owners pursuing their restitution claims in the United States. The article recognizes the commitment of the US museum community to addressing the issues of unlawfully appropriated art. Examples of recent restitutions from American collections, both public and private, are illustrative of different means, by which resolution of cultural property disputes has proven successful in the last decade.
Anna A. Perl is First Secretary at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, DC. Prior to assuming her current position, she was Deputy Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage at the Poland's Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. From 2001 to 2006, she served as a political officer at the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC. Anna Perl received her master's degrees in law and applied linguistics from the University of Warsaw, Poland. She holds a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree from the Colombus School of Law of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and is a member of the New York Bar.

Ms. Perl writes in her article:
Any analysis of the efforts to recover works of art lost or displaced during and in the aftermath of World War II should be seen against a historical background. Few countries suffered cultural losses on a scale comparable to that of Poland. The agreement signed in August of 1939 between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and their joint invasion of Poland brought defeat to the county and plunder of its cultural property on a massive and unprecedented scale. The once splendid art collections were destroyed or dispersed due to theft, confiscation, coercive transfer and looting by the Germans and Soviets. The fate of the Warsaw University Library is a case in point. Home to the oldest and most valuable graphics collection in pre-WWII Poland, the Library lost in the years 1939 through 1945 more than 60,000 prints and drawings. Three magnificent pen and ink drawings by Dürer that were housed in this prestigious institution never returned to Warsaw. 
The confiscation of works of art was meticulously planned and implemented with a ruthless precision by the German authorities in the weeks and months following the occupation of Poland. In the early days of October 1939, the German Confiscating Commission arrived in Warsaw to carry out its mission of "safeguarding" Polish culture property. It was responsible for much of the looting carried out on behalf of the Reich. A formal decree of December 16, 1939, issued by Hans Frank, Nazi General Governor of Generalgouvernement, institutionalized the looting and provided a basis for Nazi pillage. The most valuable artworks seized by the Nazis were included into a catalogue known as Sichergestellte Kunstwerke im Generalgouvernement, which governor Frank presented to Hitler in 1940. This "catalogue of plunder" contained descriptions and photographs of 521 masterpieces. Post-war restitution efforts resulted in several returns, yet some of the most treasured artifacts, such as Portrait of a young man by Rafael, or the three pen and ink drawings by Dürer stolen from the Warsaw University Library are still missing.
Ms. Perl's article is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA, and available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and The Associate Editor is Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

June 14, 2012

Destroyed in WWII: Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano" (1899)

Gustav Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano", 1899
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

Mizzi Zimmerman was the red-haired teenager in Gustav Klimt's 1899 painting, Schubert at the Piano.  In Anne-Marie O'Connor's 2012 book, Lady in Gold, the journalist mentions this work in describing the seduction powers of the artist.  In this painting of the Austrian composer, Mizzi is pregnant with Klimt's son.  The 'whispery silk gown' Mizzi models is lent by Serena Lederer, a wealthy Viennese art patron who collected 14 of Klimt's paintings, including a portrait by Klimt of Egon Schiele's mistress, Valerie Neuzil.

Mizzi also posed nude for another of the artist's works, Naked Truth, but Klimt had no intention of marrying the pregnant Catholic girl, O'Connor writes.  Klimt, who had also impregnated another woman at the same time, told Mizzi that he would be focusing his energies on a big commission to paint ceiling murals for the University of Vienna -- Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence.   Mizzi told her mother of her pregnancy, O'Connor reports: her stepfather threw Mizzi out of the house and she begged the artist for financial support.

But we can't see Schubert at the Piano in any museum.  This and the other Klimt paintings collected by Lederer, were destroyed in 1945 when retreating Nazis set Schloss Immendorf on fire.  The paintings from the Lederer collection had been placed at the residence of Baron Rudolf Freudenthan, an officer in the Wehrmacht (German armed forces), for safekeeping in 1943.  O'Connor recounts that the Lederer Klimt collection of "as many as fourteen spectacular Klimt paintings" included Golden Apple Tree, Philosophy and Jurisprudence (which the Lederers had purchased when the University of Vienna rejected them), Girl Friends and Music II ("The precise number of paintings burned at Schloss Immendorf is unknown, O'Connor notes).

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.

February 1, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Contributor Minton on Art Restitution of Nazi-era Looted Art

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Jennifer Ann Minton wrote an article titled “Art Restitution of Nazi-era Looted Art: A Growing Force in Art and Law” for the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime. According to Ms. Minton’s abstract:
“Art restitution is one of the few ways to make reparations to the many victims of the treacheries of World War II. Victims of Nazi-era art theft and their heirs should be able to successfully bring actions in the United States to recovery their possessions as this is usually one of the last options available for recovery. Claims concerning art restitution should be heard in U. S. courts and the statue of limitations and the U. S. Department of State’s Statement of Interest should not be used to preclude adjudication on the merits of these cases. The Court should assert their independence and refuse to dismiss these cases. Recent art restitution settlements and the U. S. Supreme Court’s current involvement shed light onto this topic and help the victims of art theft reclaim what rightfully belongs to them.”
Jennifer Ann Minton is a transplant from Southern California, who decided to make Washington, D. C. her home after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000. She has worked at the White House and various U. S. departments. She received her J. D. from Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law.

ARCA blog: How would you explain to a layperson – someone who is only conversationally knowledgeable about art law – whether or not claimants have been successful in European courts in recovery Holocaust-looted art and why the American courts seem to be the answer for so many cases?

Ms. Minton: In 2010 the World Jewish Restitution Organization found that out of many named Eastern European countries including Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and the Ukraine, only the Czech Republic and Slovakia had both enacted restitution laws governing art and were conducting provenance research. This is an important point as the former Soviet Union indirectly looted the Jews of their art which was confiscated and collected by the Germans during World War II. In many cases there are no records or unreliable records to prove provenance. With artwork now popping up in the United States with more frequency (whether on the auction block, in a museum or in a private collection) rightful claimants are able seek restitution in the U.S. Courts where the statute of limitations may have run out in European countries. Historically the European courts have sided with those that could prove they acquired looted works in “good faith”. Because of the complication in these legal cases involving issues such as the statute of limitations, international law and provenance determination, I believe you will see a general rise of interest in art law from the public. I first became fascinated by the procedural problems in my International Litigation class at Catholic University of America Law School in Washington, D.C. and continued my research after graduation.

ARCA blog: In your article, you discuss Malevich v. City Amsterdam, the facts of the case stretch back to the 1920s when Malevich was forced to leave an exhibition in Berlin and return to St. Petersburg. When the artist died in 1935, was the art he left behind still unsold? And then it was ‘on loan’ to various friends and institutions such as the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York until his heirs began suing for recovery of the art after the collapse of the Soviet Union?

Ms. Minton: In 2003, fourteen of Malevich’s works appeared for the first time in the U.S. On loan from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, they were part of an exhibition at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. How did this happen? Malevich became a Master of “Suprematism” in Moscow in 1915. In 1927 the Soviet government demanded he return to St. Petersburg when he was exhibiting his work at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition. The works were left behind with friends and he never returned to Germany, dying in 1935. Little is known how these works were scattered across Europe and then to Canada and the United States except that dozens of pieces were sold by a German architect to the museum in Amsterdam. So, yes, some of the art left behind was sold, at least a portion of it. Where and when these and other looted works will appear is part of the larger story of art restitution and its eventual rise in art law.
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