CLAE News

On 6 November 2017, in a ceremony at The Mansion House, London, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, the Lord Mayor on behalf of the City of London Corporation restituted Jacob Ochtervelt's 'The Oyster Meal' to Mrs Charlotte Bischoff von Heemskerck, the 96 year old surviving daughter of the late owner, Dr. J. H. Smidt van Gelder, director of the Children’s Hospital of Arnhem, The Netherlands. The 17th century painting, looted in 1945, was the subject of a restitution claim submitted by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, with extensive supporting documentation, earlier this year. CLAE's research traced the previously unknown history of The Oyster Meal between its disappearance in January 1945 and its reappearance on the art market in Switzerland in 1965. For full details, see the Press Release jointly issued by the City of London Corporation and the Commission.

On 12 September 2017 the UK government hosted an international conference in London with the title '70 Years and Counting: The Final Opportunity?'. Organised by the UK Government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Spoliation Advisory Panel and the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which was also the sponsor, the conference aimed at increasing efforts to return Nazi-looted art to its original owners. The UK government announced that it would extend the power of UK museums to return Nazi-looted art to its rightful owners indefinitely and called for stronger efforts from the international community to accelerate the processes of identification and return.

David Lewis, Co-Chair of the Commission, gave an opening speech in which he said the issue of looted art is a moral and ethical one and that restitution is both the priority and "an obligation on the part of the governments whose museums and public institutions have found themselves as temporary custodians".  "Cases have to be dealt with on moral and ethical grounds and this is best practice. It is, in our view, totally unacceptable that such matters as statutes of limitation and other legal restraints continue to impede restitution. Nor should the subjective importance of a particular object to a museum or other institution be taken into account when determining a just remedy.The sole criterion of a just remedy should be the evidence and the balance of probability that the loss of the object was due to the circumstances of the Nazi era. If that is the view of the Panel or decision-making body in whichever country the matter is being considered then the object should be restituted without further qualification." He spoke of the need for transparency, of the obligation of governments to provide funding for provenance research and to publish it within an agreed time frame.  To read his speech in full, click here

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