A Gubbio dish from the Gutmann collection (Gutmann IV-B)

Recommendation regarding Gutmann (NK 615) IV-B

Recommendation number: 
1.115-B
Type: 
NK collection
Publishing date: 
18 June 2012

Please note this is an unauthorized translation of the original Dutch text
of the recommendation “Advies inzake Gutmann (NK 615) IV-B (zaaknummer RC 1.115-B)”

(case number RC 1.115-B[1] )

In a letter dated 9 November 2009, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science (hereafter referred to as: the Minister) requested the Restitutions Committee (hereafter referred to as: the Committee) to issue a recommendation concerning the application for restitution dated 24 February 2009 submitted by N.P., F.F., M.M., C.E.G. and N.M.G. as parties entitled to the estate of Herbert Gutmann (hereafter referred to as: applicants I). Subsequently, on 6 September 2011, the Minister requested the Committee to issue a recommendation on the application for restitution dated 11 August 2011 submitted by S.G., also on behalf of N.G. and L.V.C.-G. as parties entitled to the estate of Fritz Gutmann (hereafter referred to as: applicants II). Both requests for restitution concern the work of art that is part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (hereafter referred to as: the NK collection) under inventory number NK 615 and is currently in the depot of the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE). NK 615 is what is known as a Gubbio dish of glazed earthenware with polychrome decorations with the bust of a woman inscribed ‘Maria Bella’ (Gubbio, c. 1530) by an unknown artist.

The procedure

Initially, the Committee included the Minister’s request for advice of 9 November 2009 concerning applicants I’s claim in the RC 1.115 case. This application for restitution included several other works of art in addition to the Gubbio dish (NK 615).
As part of this request for advice, the Committee instigated a fact-finding investigation. During this investigation, the Committee wrote the heirs of Fritz Gutmann (applicants II) a letter dated 11 July 2011 to ask them for information regarding the nature of the loss of possession of the Gubbio dish (NK 615) and other objects. The heirs replied in a letter dated 28 July 2011 that they did not have any information. This prompted applicants II, on 11 August 2011, to also submit a claim to NK 615.
In response to this second (originally competing) claim, the Committee decided to split the RC 1.115 file into two files. The four artworks claimed only by applicants I were included in file number RC 1.115-A, on which the Committee issued a recommendation on 19 December 2011. The advice procedure on the two applications for restitution of NK 615 was included in file number RC 1.115-B, on which the Committee advises as follows.
In a letter dated 19 December 2011, S.G. (applicants II) stated that he would also represent applicants I in the current case. Following questions from the Committee, applicants I confirmed this in a letter dated 14 March 2012 from their representative at the time, O.S. Ossmann of Winterthur, Switzerland. S.G. also explained the matter further in a letter dated 14 March 2012. As such, as of 19 December 2011, S.G. has been acting as the representative of applicants I as well as applicants II (applicants I and II hereafter also jointly referred to as: the applicants) in this procedure.
The Committee set out its investigation in this matter in a draft investigatory report that was sent to applicants I, applicants II and the Minister in letters dated 9 December 2011. Applicants I and II responded to the content of the draft report in a letter dated 17 January 2012. The Minister informed the Committee on 20 January 2012 that she did not have any additional information that she wished to bring to the Committee’s attention.
On 20 April 2012, as part of its investigation of the facts, the Committee asked Prof. Dr R.E.O. Ekkart, the director of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), for his expertise, in response to which he drafted a report. The Committee sent this report to the applicants for their information in a letter dated 1 June 2012, to which the applicants responded in a letter dated 5 June 2012. The investigatory report was adopted on 18 June 2012. The Committee refers to this report for the facts of the case.

Considerations

  1. Applicants I claim to be heirs of Herbert Max Magnus Gutmann (hereafter referred to as: Herbert Gutmann). As evidence, they provided inheritance documents on the basis of which the Committee sees no reason to doubt the position of applicants I as parties entitled to Herbert Gutmann’s estate.  

  2. Applicants II are parties entitled to the estate of Friedrich Bernhard Eugen Gutmann (hereafter referred to as: Fritz Gutmann), as evidenced by a certificate of inheritance, executed in the presence of M.R. Meijer, notary public in Amsterdam, on 18 March 2005. 

  3. The applicants stated that the Gubbio dish (NK 615) was part of the undivided estate of Eugen Gutmann, who died in 1925, to which Herbert Gutmann and Fritz Gutmann were also entitled. The applicants also stated that, during the war, the current NK 615 was at art dealership K.W. Bachstitz N.V. in The Hague (hereafter referred to as: art dealership Bachstitz), which, in that capacity, supposedly sold the Gubbio dish in 1942 without the Gutmann family’s knowledge or cooperation. The applicants stated that, consequently, they regard the loss of possession as involuntary as a result of the Nazi regime.

    Overview of the facts 

  4. Jewish banker Eugen Gutmann (1840-1925) was co-founder of the Dresdner Bank AG established in Dresden in 1872. He was married to Sophie Magnus (1852-1915), with whom he had seven children, namely Lili, Antonie (Toinon), Walter, Herbert, Kurt, Max and Fritz Gutmann. When the head office of the Dresdner Bank moved to Berlin in 1884, the family followed. 
    Eugen Gutmann built up an art collection that was famed in the art circles of the day. On 4 July 1921, the N.V. Trust & Administratie Maatschappij (Trustenad) was established in Amsterdam to look after the financial interests of Eugen Gutmann’s children. At about the same time, part of the Eugen Gutmann collection was given on consignment to art dealership Bachstitz in The Hague.
    After Eugen Gutmann’s death in 1925, his six children jointly inherited his art collection, each being entitled to one sixth (the eldest son Walter had already died in 1917). In subsequent years, there seem to have been several changes in the ownership situation of the art collection and the objects in it. For example, various works of art from the collection were sold soon after Eugen Gutmann’s death, while Fritz Gutmann kept part of the collection in a separate safe in his home.  

  5. Herbert Gutmann, the testator of applicants I, was born on 15 October 1879 as the fourth of Eugen Gutmann’s children. He became deputy director of the London branch of the Dresdner Bank in 1903. He had three children with his wife Daisy Stephanie Thekla Anna Bertha Luise von Frankenberg und Ludwigsdorf(f). The family lived alternately in Berlin and Potsdam, where Herbert Gutmann amassed his own art collection. From 1933, the Dresdner Bank, which was under government supervision, fell under the control of the National Socialists. Herbert Gutmann was forced to resign from a number of the bank’s advisory bodies and found himself facing financial difficulties. In April 1934, he put his art collection up for auction. He left Germany in October 1936 to settle in London. Herbert Gutmann died on 22 December 1942.  

  6. Fritz Gutmann, father and grandfather of applicants II, was born on 15 November 1886 as the youngest of Eugen Gutmann’s children. He married Baroness L(o)uise E. von Landau, with whom he had two children, B. Gutmann (later: B. Goodman) (1914-1994) and L. Gutmann (born 1919). In 1918, Fritz Gutmann moved to the Netherlands, where he was granted Dutch nationality in 1924. Fritz Gutmann lived with his family in ‘Huize Bosbeek’, his estate near Heemstede. After the start of the occupation of the Netherlands in 1940, the Gutmann-Von Landau couple planned to escape the country, with a view to which they tried to sell as many works of art as possible. The Gutmann-Von Landaus’ escape plan failed and they were arrested in 1943 and taken to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where Fritz Gutmann died in 1944. His wife Louise von Landau died in Auschwitz that same year. The couple’s two children survived the war abroad.

    NK 615  

  7. The current NK 615 was returned to the Netherlands from Germany in 1948. This was based on the fact that, during the German occupation of the Netherlands, this work of art had been sold by The Hague art dealership Bachstitz to the German Dr. H.W. Hupp, then director of the Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Düsseldorf

  8. The investigation of the sources shows that NK 615 was part of the collection of Eugen Gutmann in 1912. The Gubbio dish, for instance, is mentioned in the 1912 catalogue Die Kunstsammlung Eugen Gutmann by Otto von Falke. The applicants have stated that the dish was given on consignment to art dealership Bachstitz around 1921. This appears to be confirmed by the listing of the Gubbio dish in a catalogue published around 1921 entitled The Bachstitz Gallery collection by art dealership Bachstitz, which mentions the Eugen Gutmann collection as provenance, and the listing of the dish in the 1925 Bulletin of the Bachstitz Gallery, which also refers to the Eugen Gutmann collection (and art dealership Bachstitz) as provenance. However, a 1934 exhibition catalogue from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam only mentions the following provenance for the current NK 615: ‘Kunsthandel K.W. Bachstitz, ‘s‑Gravenhage’ [Art dealership Bachstitz, The Hague]. During the investigation, this prompted the question of whether, after having taken it on consignment, art dealership Bachstitz purchased the current NK 615 at a later date. Evidence for this can be found on the inventory card for the current NK 615 that was found during the investigation in the records of art dealership Bachstitz at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD). On this card, art dealership Bachstitz states the following provenance names: ‘1897 Coll: Tollin’ and ‘Kollektion: E-Gutmann 212’. The card also bears the following annotation: ‘Kommissionspreis lt. Brief 3.10.25 ₤mss’. The ‘Kommissions’ (consignment) part of the word has been deleted by hand, and the word ‘Einstand’ (purchase) handwritten above it. The letter dated 3 October 1925 was not found during the investigation. Among the information written on the back of the card are the amounts NLG 568.30 in ‘Gesamptspesen’ and NLG 184.17 in ‘weitere Spessen b. 1930’. A second indication is the ‘internal declaration form’ that the SNK completed for the current NK 615 after the war on the basis of information from art dealership Bachstitz. This states that the Gubbio dish was originally ‘in bezit’ [owned by] art dealership Bachstitz. In this context, it is also important to draw attention to post-war correspondence between the SNK and Elisa Emma Bachstitz-Hofer, widow of the owner of art dealership Bachstitz, who died in 1949. Responding in 1950 to a request from the SNK to advise whether a number of works of art, including the current NK 615, were owned by the art dealership prior to the German occupation, she stated that the art objects ‘allen uit onze collectie [zijn]’, and that they ‘daarin reeds sedert 1920, 1931 resp. 1937 [bevonden]’ (were all from our collection and have been so since 1920, 1931 and 1937, respectively).

    Assessment of the claim 

  9. The Ekkart Committee’s eighth recommendation (2001) states as a condition for restitution that the title to the claimed objects is proved with a high degree of probability, and that there are no indications to the contrary. Therefore, when assessing the current claim, it is important to first consider whether the co-ownership rights of Herbert Gutmann and/or Fritz Gutmann to the currently claimed NK 615 can be proved with a high degree of probability and whether there are no indications to the contrary. In this respect, it is important to determine that these ownership rights can be dated to the moment relevant to the application for restitution, viz. the moment of sale to Dr. Hupp (19 August 1942).  

  10. As outlined above in the overview of the facts in consideration 8, the current NK 615 was part of the Eugen Gutmann collection in 1912 and was on consignment to art dealership Bachstitz from around 1921. Moreover, the Gubbio dish appears to have been purchased by the Gutmann family at a certain point in time. The investigation uncovered the following indications for this acquisition (see also consideration 8):
    - the alteration of the word ‘Kommissionspreis’ on the inventory card to ‘Einstandspreis’;
    - a listing in a 1934 catalogue in which only the name ‘Kunsthandel K.W. Bachstitz, ‘s‑Gravenhage’ is given for the Gubbio dish;
    - a post-war statement by Mrs Bachstitz-Hofer that the current NK 615 was owned by art dealership Bachstitz long before the war. 

  11. The applicants state that the current NK 615 was never sold to art dealership Bachstitz and that the object was still on consignment to the art dealership at the time it was sold to Dr. Hupp in 1942. In this context, they claim that the annotation ‘Einstandspreis’ on the inventory card does not necessarily mean that the object was actually purchased by art dealership Bachstitz. According to the applicants, a final ‘purchase price’ would have been called ‘Einkaufpreis’ and a purchase date given on the card, which is not the case here. The applicants also state that there are no indications whatsoever that the ‘Gesamtspesen’ listed on the back of the inventory card were paid to the Gutmann family. According to the applicants, there is no reason why Bachstitz would have wanted to pay for an object for which he had not yet found a buyer. 

  12. With a view to the correct interpretation of the data on the inventory card for the current NK 615 in the records of art dealership Bachstitz, the Committee submitted a request for information to Prof. Dr R.E.O. Ekkart, director of the RKD, because of his art-historical expertise and familiarity with the archive of art dealership Bachstitz in the RKD. In his reply, Ekkart pointed out that the back of the inventory card states an amount in costs until 1930 of NLG 568.39. According to Ekkart, this amount indicates that art dealership Bachstitz made a payment to the Gutmann family. Ekkart compared this fact to two other Bachstitz inventory cards that mention the word ‘Einstandspreis’. The backs of these cards also state fairly high amounts in costs, which, according to Ekkart, indicates that the objects in question were purchased/taken over by art dealership Bachstitz. Ekkart draws the following conclusion with regard to the current NK 615:

    ‘Aangezien bovendien de zo nadrukkelijke correctie van Kommissionspreis in Einstandspreis er op wijst dat er sprake moet zijn van een andere status dan die van een commissie en bovenstaande gegevens er op wijzen dat het begrip Einstandspreis bij Bachstitz inderdaad gehanteerd werd om een inkoopsprijs aan te duiden, acht ik het in hoge mate waarschijnlijk dat Bachstitz deze schaal in oktober 1925 van de familie Gutmann in eigendom heeft verworven.’

    [Moreover, in light of the explicit correction from Kommissionspreis [commission price] into Einstandspreis [cost price], this must be a different status than that of a consignment and that the above information indicates that Bachstitz did indeed use the term Einstandspreis [cost price] to indicate a purchase price, I consider it highly probable that Bachstitz acquired possession of this dish from the Gutmann family in October 1925.]

     

  13. Based on the indications given above in considerations 8, 10 and 12, the Committee is of the opinion that ownership of the Gubbio dish in the relevant period is uncertain to such an extent that it has to be concluded that it has not been proved with a high degree of probability that the Gubbio dish (NK 615) was still owned by the Gutmann family at the time it was sold to Dr. Hupp on 19 August 1942. 


Conclusion

The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to reject the claim by applicants I and II to NK 615.
Adopted at the meeting of 18 June 2012 by W.J.M. Davids (Chair), J.Th.M. Bank, P.J.N. van Os, D.H.M. Peeperkorn, E.J. van Straaten, H.M. Verrijn Stuart, I.C. van der Vlies (vice-chair), and signed by the chair and the secretary.

(W.J.M. Davids, chair)    (E. Campfens, secretary)

[1] Previous recommendations by the Committee regarding the Gutmann collection are: RC 1.2, RC 1.113, RC 1.114-A, RC 1.114-B and RC 1.115-A