Van Aldenburg Bentinck II


Advice: Van Aldenburg Bentinck II
Number: 4.125
Date: 5-3-2012

NK2556 (Photo: Mauritshuis, The Hague)

Recommendation regarding Van Aldenburg Bentinck II

(case number RC 4.125)

In a letter dated 14 June 2011, the (State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science (hereafter referred to as: the State Secretary) requested the Restitutions Committee (hereafter referred to as: the Committee) to issue a revised recommendation on the application for restitution by I.A. O.-V.A.B., of Castle M., D.S. (hereafter referred to as: the applicant) of the painting Portrait of a married couple by Pieter Codde which is currently in the Dutch National Art Collection under inventory number NK 2550. The work of art whose return the applicant has requested is in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

The said application for restitution was rejected in a decision taken by the State Secretary on 13 October 2010, in accordance with the Committee’s recommendation of 6 September 2010 (case number RC 1.102). In response, in a letter dated 18 May 2011, the applicant requested the State Secretary to reconsider the decision. Further to this request, the State Secretary requested the Committee to issue a revised recommendation on the basis of the arguments put forward by the applicant in her letter of 18 May 2011.

THE PROCEDURE

After receiving the request for a revised recommendation, the Committee notified the applicant in writing on 27 July 2011 that it would investigate:
(a)    whether there were any new facts, which, had they been known when the recommendation was adopted, would have led to a different conclusion, and/or
(b)   whether any mistakes were made during the procedure, as a result of which the applicant’s fundamental interests were prejudiced.

The applicant was invited to submit any additional documents she might consider relevant in the light of these assessment criteria. The applicant responded to the contents hereof on 12 September 2011, through her authorised representative, G.L. Maaldrink. The applicant took the opportunity to state that she would like to elucidate her request in person in the presence of her authorised representative and of the manager of castle M., N.W.C. The case was then heard on 24 January 2012 in the presence of the two persons referred to and a delegation of the Committee. On this occasion, the representative’s a written pleading was submitted and, on 2 February 2012, the applicant herself also provided additional information and documentation.

On 17 February 2012, the applicant was informed that the Committee would start drafting the revised recommendation. The applicant’s explanation, which the Committee included in its assessment, comprises her arguments set out in letters dated 18 May 2011, 12 September 2011, 19 January 2012, 2 February 2012, in an email dated 16 November 2011, a pleading dated 24 January 2012, and the information provided during the hearing on 24 January 2012.

CONSIDERATIONS

  1.  Within reference to the request for a revised recommendation, the Committee assesses whether the explanation provided by the applicant includes:
    (a) any new facts, which, had they been known when the recommendation was adopted, would have led to a different conclusion, and/or
    (b) whether any mistakes were made during the procedure, as a result of which the applicant’s fundamental interests were prejudiced.

    Procedural mistakes criterion (b)
  2. According to her explanation, the applicant feels that she was insufficiently informed about the investigation in the Katz case (RC 1.90-B) in which the same painting is claimed. The applicant has requested the Committee to combine that case with hers so that she can take cognisance of the contributions of the applicants in the Katz case with regard to NK 2550 (letter dated 12 September 2011, points 14-15 in conjunction). As for this, the Committee regards this as not being the case in that there was a sufficient exchange of information because the Katz file contains no other facts about NK 2550 than those mentioned in the Van Aldenburg Bentinck investigatory report (RC 1.102). The Committee has already informed the applicant of this standpoint at the hearing of 24 January 2012.

    New facts criterion a)
  3. The Committee holds the conviction that the facts expounded by the applicant in her explanation represent a new interpretation of facts that are already known and weighed or involve aspects that are not of relevance when assessing the loss of possession. For instance, the fact presented by the applicant in an email dated 16 November 2011 stating that N. did not submit a claim after the war, is not a relevant new fact. Similarly, the “white card” in the Netherlands Art Property Foundation archive put forward in a letter dated 19 January 2012 was already known ( investigatory report RC 1.102), section 4.1, p. 8). The other arguments expounded by the applicant, while submitting several pages from a catalogue of the Mauritshuis that was not mentioned in investigatory report RC 1.102, rest on an interpretation of the facts according to which Bentinck lost possession of the work in 1944 (see also letter dated 12 September 2011). However, the applicant also stated that she knew nothing about when her father lost possession nor about the circumstances under which this took place as she was in Germany in connection with the Arbeitseinsatz in the period from 1942 to 1945. All she remembers is that her father told her afterwards that the painting had “gone to N.” (hearing on 24 January 2012). In the recommendation on RC 1.102, the Committee already reported that the date and circumstances of Bentinck’s loss of possession of the painting remain unknown due to inconsistent information in the source material. The Committee considers of importance the applicant’s memory that the painting was in her parents’ house (hearing of 24 January 2012) until she left for Germany in 1942. This does not iron out the above-mentioned inconsistencies regarding loss of possession, however.

  4. The Committee considers that, apart from the unclarified aspects mentioned above, the applicant’s claim does not satisfy the criterion of involuntary loss of possession (recommendation RC 1.102, consideration 7). Pursuant to current restitutions policy, the question is, after all, if, in the case of the former owner W.F.C.H. Count Van Aldenburg Bentinck (hereafter referred to as: Bentinck) the loss of possession was involuntary due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. In the event of a sale by private persons who did not belong to a persecuted group of people, such as Bentinck, an involuntary loss such as that can only be said to be the case if the seller was directly threatened or coerced by the Nazi regime. The moral obligation Bentinck felt that moved him to give the painting to N. cannot be put on a par with a direct threat or coercion towards Bentinck himself, however admirable such an initiative was (according to the similarly worded consideration 7 referred to above). In this regard, the applicant’s explanation (in her letter of 12 September 2011, point 6 and 11; pleading of 24 January 2012, point 11, and elsewhere) does not contain any new facts, which, had they been known when the recommendation was adopted, would have led to a different conclusion.

  5. In light of these considerations, the Committee will advise the State Secretary not to revise the decision in the case RC 1.102.

CONCLUSION 

The Restitutions Committee advises the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science to maintain the rejection of the applicant’s application for restitution of the painting Portrait of a married couple by Pieter Codde (NK 2550).

Adopted at the meeting of 5 March 2012 by W.J.M. Davids (chair), J.Th.M. Bank, P.J.N. van Os, D.H.M. Peeperkorn, E.J. van Straaten, and signed by the chair and the secretary.

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