CLAE News

On 21 March 2019 View of a Dutch Square attributed to the Dutch 17th century painter Jan van der Heyden was restituted to the heirs of Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus from whom it was seized in Vienna in 1941.The painting was found by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe in the collection of the Dombauverein Xanten, the cathedral association of Xanten in Northern Germany. The Dombauverein had acquired it through the Lempertz auction house in Cologne in 1963 for 16,100 DM. The Commission's research had revealed a shocking history. After seizure of the painting by the Nazis in 1941, it was acquired by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's photographer and a high ranking Nazi. Hoffmann was the father-in-law of Baldur von Schirach, the Nazi Governor of Vienna under whose authority it had been stolen. Von Schirach was later sentenced to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity, having sent 60,000 Austrian Jews to their deaths. Found by the Allies at the end of the war, the Van der Heyden painting was handed over to Bavaria for the purpose of restitution. Instead the Bavarians returned it, with many other paintings, in 1962 to Henriette Hoffmann von Schirach, daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann, in exchange for the sum of 300 Deutsch Marks. The research showed that over a period of some 20 years after the war, the Bavarians returned scores of paintings to high-ranking Nazi families, including those of Hermann Goering, Martin Bormann, Hans Frank, Baldur von Schirach and Heinrich Hoffmann. In 2011 the Commission submitted a claim to Xanten for the Van der Heyden painting, which took eight years to be agreed by Xanten. To read the restitution press release, click here.

Earlier press releases from June 2016 and 14 July 2016 are available here and here respectively.

In February 2018, a Max Liebermann painting, Gartenlokal an der Havel unter Bäumen, from the collection of Dagobert and Martha David of Dusseldorf, was identified as consigned for sale to Van Ham Kunstauktionen in Cologne, Germany, by the estate of Friedrich Wilhelm Waffenschmidt of Cologne, who had acquired the painting in 1984 at Kunsthaus Lempertz in Cologne.  The painting was sold at Lempertz by another local collector Walter Franz. Prior to Walter Franz the painting was in the ownership of Hildebrand Gurlitt until at least the mid 1950s  The painting had been sold under duress by Martha David in Belgium during the war. Following an amicable settlement, the painting was sold at Van Ham on 30 May 2018. To read the Van Ham press release, click here.

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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