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Byzantine ivory relief returns to heirs of partners Kunsthaus A.S. Drey

24 October 2023
Byzantijns ivoren reliëf getiteld "Hodegetria" of "Maria met kind" Byzantine ivory relief Hodegetria or Virgin and Child (photo: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen)


THE HAGUE, 24 October 2023 – The Restitutions Committee has advised Rotterdam City Council to restitute the ivory relief Hodegetria or Virgin and Child, which is in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, to the heirs of the partners of Kunsthaus A.S. Drey.

Research by the Restitution Expertise Centre (ECR) showed it is highly likely that this artwork came from the collection of the A.S. Drey art gallery in Munich, which until 1936 was in the hands of the German-Jewish Drey family. It also became sufficiently plausible that the sale of the artwork in 1936 was involuntary as a result of circumstances directly connected with the Nazi regime.

Forced sale as a result of anti-Jewish measures

The art gallery Kunsthaus A.S. Drey, which was founded in 1837, was a renowned family business, with subsidiaries in Paris, New York, London, Brussels and The Hague. Research revealed that the partners, a son and four grandsons of the founder Aron Siegfried Drey, were confronted during the Nazi regime with disproportionate tax measures that were aimed at Jewish people and also dubious accusations of tax fraud. In order to be able to pay the tax debt and penalties, the firm sold the lion’s share of its trading stock, including the ivory relief Hodegetria or Virgin and Child, at auction in June 1936 at the Paul Graupe auction house in Berlin.

Now that it has been established that the five partners of Kunsthaus A.S. Drey were of Jewish descent and that the art gallery lost possession of the artwork after 1933 in Germany, on the grounds of the assessment framework adopted by the Dutch government, the loss of possession was involuntary if there are indications that make this involuntary loss of possession sufficiently plausible. The detailed underpinning of the involuntary loss of possession can be perused in the Committee’s binding opinion on the Restitutions Committee’s website.

Rotterdam City Council has concurred with the Restitutions Committee’s binding opinion and will restitute the artwork to the heirs of the partners of Kunsthaus A.S. Drey.


Relevant binding opinion: Binding opinion Kunsthaus A.S. Drey / Rotterdam City Council


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