Press Release

Old Master painting looted by Nazis in WW2 reunited with Dutch family

News release

From the City of London Corporation and the Commission for Looted Art in Europe





Old Master painting looted by Nazis in WW2 reunited with Dutch family




A seventeenth-century Dutch painting looted during the Second World War and bequeathed to the City of London Corporation will be restituted to the 96-year-old daughter of its Dutch owner, the late Dr J. H. Smidt van Gelder, director of the Children’s Hospital of Arnhem, on 6th November 2017 at a ceremony at The Mansion House, London. 


Earlier this year, The Oyster Meal by Jacob Ochtervelt (1634-1682), one of the Old Master paintings in the Harold Samuel Collection at The Mansion House, became the subject of a well-substantiated claim from the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe, acting on behalf of the family.


In January 1945, following the Battle of Arnhem, the town was plundered by the Germans. The Oyster Meal was one of 14 paintings stored by Dr Smidt van Gelder in a bank vault in Arnhem for safekeeping, all of which were looted. Despite extensive searches after the war, The Oyster Meal and five other paintings were never found. The restitution claim, which was submitted with extensive supporting documentation, 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. 


The oil on canvas, which was acquired by Harold Samuel in 1971, has been displayed at The Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, since 1988, following Lord Samuel’s gift of 84 art works to the City of London Corporation. The bequest in 1987 came with the condition that they be retained there permanently. However, on hearing about the claim, the daughters of the late Lord Samuel readily waived the condition and agreed that The Oyster Meal should be returned to the family. 


Once the Samuel daughters’ consent was granted, the City of London Corporation approved plans to reunite the painting with Mrs Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck, the surviving daughter of Dr J. H. Smidt van Gelder.  Mrs Bischoff van Heemskerck will travel from Holland to London to meet Lord Mayor Andrew Parmley, who will present her with the painting at The Mansion House on 6 November. 


Lord Mayor Andrew Parmley said:

“When I heard about the restitution claim, I felt it entirely right that ‘The Oyster Meal’ be reunited as soon as possible with the family who owned it. My colleagues and I at the City of London Corporation were unanimous in our decision to seek approval from Lord Samuel’s daughters to authorise the painting’s restitution and we have worked closely with the Commission for Looted Art in Europe towards achieving that goal. 

“I sincerely hope that the handover of ‘The Oyster Meal’ to Mrs Bischoff van Heemskerck will represent a happy, albeit, long overdue, resolution for her and her family.”

Mrs Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck said: 


"The recovery of my father’s painting after so many years was truly a collective effort. We are very grateful to the Commission for Looted Art in Europe for the countless hours spent establishing the history of this painting, and to the City of London Corporation for honouring our claim in such a professional manner, and for taking such a constructive and positive approach. 


This painting was one looted from our family during the plunder of Arnhem which impacted so many families in our community. For me, its return is representative of the co-operation between the Allies, which helped save our way of life so many years ago.  Although it is a bittersweet recovery in the context of the great devastation and loss of the war, it is very meaningful to my family, and we are delighted to bring it home again to honour my father’s legacy."


Anne Webber, Co-Chair, Commission for Looted Art in Europe, said:

“We much appreciate the exemplary speed and courtesy with which the City of London Corporation has addressed this claim and its commitment to the return of the painting to the family. We particularly thank the daughters of Lord Samuel for their agreement to the restitution of the painting.

“The painting was plundered in terrifying circumstances after the Battle of Arnhem, when many British lives were lost and so many Dutch families were terrorised.  It is very moving that a painting of such meaning to her and her family is at last being returned to 96-year-old Mrs Bischoff van Heemskerck, who lived through those times and remembers the painting so well.”

The Harold Samuel Collection is housed at The Mansion House, which serves as the Lord Mayor’s official residence in the City of London.  Lord Harold Samuel of Wych Cross, a property developer and entrepreneur, left it to the City of London Corporation for permanent display at Mansion House in 1987. The collection, which is formed of 84 works of art, brings together some of the finest Dutch art in Britain, including The Merry Lute Player by Frans Hals and ‚ÄčA Young Woman Sewing by Nicolaes Maes. 


The Oyster Meal by Jacob Ochtervelt (1634-1682) is oil on canvas, 53.5cm x 44.5 cm and dates to c.1664-65.





Notes for Editors:


Anne Webber, Co-Chair, Commission for Looted Art in Europe; and Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck will be available for interviews 


An image of The Oyster Meal and photographs of Dr Smidt van Gelder are available on request from Anne Webber.  



For more information, please contact:


Anne Webber, Co-Chair, Commission for Looted Art in Europe

Tel: 020 7487 3401 / Mobile: 07774 697324 / Email


Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer, City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333060 / Email



The City of London Corporation provides local government and policing services for the financial and commercial heart of Britain, the 'Square Mile'. In addition, the City Corporation has three roles: 


• We support London’s communities by working in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on economic regeneration, education and skills projects. In addition, the City of London Corporation’s charity City Bridge Trust makes grants of around £20 million annually to charitable projects across London and we also support education with three independent schools, three City Academies, a primary school and the world-renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 


• We also help look after key London’s heritage and green spaces including Tower Bridge, Museum of London, Barbican Arts Centre, City gardens, Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches, and important ‘commons’ in south London. 


• We also support and promote the ‘City’ as a world-leading financial and business hub, with outward and inward business delegations, high-profile civic events and research-driven policies all reflecting a long-term approach. 


See for more details.




The Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE), is an international, expert and non-profit representative body which acts to identify, locate and recover art and cultural property seized between 1933 and 1945 on behalf of families, museums and governments worldwide. It has been instrumental in the return to its rightful owners of over 3,500 items of looted property.

CLAE negotiates policies and procedures with governments and cultural institutions and promotes the identification of looted cultural property and the tracing of its rightful owners. In 2001 it set up a Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 at to fulfil Principle VI of the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. The Registry provides an up-to-date source of news, research, publications, conferences and developments in this field. 


See and for more details



Issue date: 6th November 2017

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