The Restitution Application
1. The currently claimed work, an oil painting on copper entitled The Marriage Feast at Cana, was made by the Austrian artist Johann Georg Platzer (1704-1761). The painting is 59.0 x 47.0 centimetres. It was returned to the Netherlands after the Second World War and subsequently taken into the NK Collection as NK 2216. It is currently in the RCE’s depot.
The Committee made a recommendation previously about a different application for restitution of the currently claimed painting. This recommendation, RC 1.89-A Mautner, was issued on 12 October 2009. In that case the applicants were heirs of Wilhelm Mautner (1889-1944). In this recommendation the Committee concluded as follows:
‘Met betrekking tot het schilderij NK 2216, De bruiloft te Canaa van de kunstenaar J.G. Platzer, zijn geen aanwijzingen gevonden dat het werk eigendom is geweest van Wilhelm Mautner. Vermoedelijk is dit werk eigendom geweest van iemand anders met dezelfde achternaam, te weten Franziska (Fanny) Mautner en/of haar echtgenoot Alfred George Mautner. Voor zover bekend gaat het hier niet om directe familie van Wilhelm Mautner.’
[‘With regard to the painting NK 2216, The Marriage Feast at Cana by the artist J.G. Platzer, no evidence was found that Wilhelm Mautner was the owner. It was probably owned by someone with the same surname, namely Franziska (Fanny) Mautner and/or her husband Alfred George Mautner. As far as the Committee knows, they were not directly related to Wilhelm Mautner.’]
The Applicant in the present case contends she is the trustee and beneficiary of the DD Trust, to which the rights relating to the estates of Alfred and Fanny Mautner, among other things, have been transferred.
The Committee has taken note of the inheritance-law-related and trust documentation submitted by the Applicant. The Committee has no reason to doubt the Applicant’s status as described above.
Previous Research into the Currently Claimed Painting
2. The Committee conducted an investigation into the provenance of the currently claimed painting for the purposes of recommendation RC 1.89-A issued to the Minister in 2009. The results were presented in the investigation report prepared in that case. It emerged during the investigation that the currently claimed painting was acquired in February 1941 by the P. de Boer gallery of Amsterdam during a sale at the Frederik Muller & Co. auction house in Amsterdam. In October 1945 the De Boer gallery completed a registration form about the painting for the Netherlands Art Property Foundation (the SNK). It is stated on the form that the painting was ‘oorspronkelijk in bezit’ [‘originally owned’] by the De Boer gallery and became the property of the ‘Museum, Troppau’, currently part of the Silesian Museum, on the basis of ‘vrijwillige verkoop’ [‘voluntary sale’].
The SNK wrote to the De Boer gallery on 3 February 1950: ‘Bij deze verzoek ik U mij van de door U aangegeven schilderijen te berichten van wie U deze schilderijen hebt gekocht en of deze verkoper deze schilderijen vrijwillig dan wel onder dwang heeft verkocht’ [‘I herewith request you to tell me from whom you purchased the paintings registered by you and whether this seller sold them voluntarily or under duress’]. The De Boer gallery responded in a letter dated 23 May 1950: ‘…ik ben uitvoerig alle gegevens nagegaan en noem U hieronder enkele gevallen, waar men zich inderdaad op overmacht zou kunnen beroepen, of waar de bron niet zo duidelijk is, daar de schilderijen in een veiling zijn gekocht.…’ [‘I have been through all the information in detail. I refer below to a few cases where one could indeed invoke force majeure or where the source is not so clear because the paintings were purchased in an auction’]. The currently claimed painting was among the paintings that the De Boer gallery referred to in its letter to the SNK.
On 16 April 1951 Frederik Muller & Co. told the Bureau for Restoration Payments and the Restoration of Property (HERGO, the SNK’s successor) at its request that the currently claimed painting had achieved NLG 650 at the sale and that it ‘afkomstig [was] van v.d. Hoop’s Meubelbewaring’ [‘had come from v.d. Hoop’s Meubelbewaring (furniture depository)’]. On 20 April 1951 HERGO approached this Amsterdam-based storage company and asked ‘op welke wijze en wanneer U in het bezit van dit stuk zijt gekomen’ [‘how and when this object came into your possession’]. No reply from ‘v.d. Hoop’s Meubelbewaring’ was found, but there is a reference to their reply on the currently claimed painting’s inventory card prepared by SNK: ‘Br. v.d. Hoop, A’dam, dd. 26-4-51. / Verkoop voor Dr. A.G. Mautner t.b.v. verr. opslagkosten’ [‘Letter from v.d. Hoop, Amsterdam, dated 26-4-51. / Sold for Dr A.G. Mautner for the purpose of settling storage costs’]. A further SNK document contains a concise summary of the letter: ‘verkoop van schilderij van Dr. AG Mautner en Mevr. Mautner’ [‘sale of painting belonging to Dr AG Mautner and Mrs Mautner’].
Alfred and Fanny Mautner
3. The investigation report relating to the 2009 recommendation RC 1.89-A states that the aforementioned individuals were in all probability Alfred George Mautner and his wife Franziska (Fanny) Mautner. In her restitution application of 24 April 2020, the Applicant in the present case submitted, among other things, a report dated January 2020, prepared by Esther Sabelus, containing information about the lives of Alfred and Fanny Mautner. This information is can be summarized as follows.
Alfred George Mautner (born in 1887) and his older brother Maximilian were partners in the Vienna-based Bank- und Wechslergeschäft Alois Mautner & Co., which their father Alois Mautner established in 1889. After the First World War the Mautner brothers adopted Czech nationality. Alfred Mautner was the Uruguayan consul in Vienna. In 1929 he married his second wife Franziska (Fanny) (1909-2003), who was an American national. They had a daughter, Ariane Mautner, in 1930. The Mautners lived in Vienna, and after the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in March 1938 they were subjected to anti-Jewish measures. For example, a Verwalter (administrator) was appointed to manage the Mautner & Co bank. The Mautner family fled initially to Prague. On 7 January 1939 they flew from there to Amsterdam, and the following day they travelled to Paris. The Mautner family survived the war, but little is known about their lives after it. Alfred Mautner is thought to have emigrated from Paris to Uruguay. He died in New York on 16 April 1958. Fanny Mautner died in New York in 2003. Their daughter Ariane died there in 2010.
4. It can be concluded from a Netherlands Property Administration Institute (NBI) file on Fanny Mautner that she and/or her husband had goods sent on an unknown date from Vienna to the Netherlands. After the war Fanny Mautner, who was in New York, her lawyer in Paris, the American consulate in Amsterdam and Alfred Mautner corresponded with the NBI about a claim for damages submitted by Fanny Mautner concerning ‘verloren gegane inboedel’ [‘lost household contents’]. On 1 July 1946 N.V. Van der Hoop’s Meubelbewaring en Transportmaatschappij (hereinafter referred to as Van der Hoop) wrote to the American consulate in response to its request that ‘de goederen van Mrs. Fanny Mautner niet bij ons op het pand waren opgeslagen, doch in het Gem. Handels Entrepot als z.g doorvoergoed of transito-goed … onder douane-versluiting. … Schriftelijk werd ons per Maart 1942 medegedeeld door de “Sammelverwaltung Feindlicher Hausgeräte” van Stolkweg 9 te Den Haag, dat de goederen in beslag waren genomen…’ [‘Mrs Fanny Mautner’s goods were not stored on our premises but in the municipal bonded warehouse as transit goods.… sealed by customs. …. In March 1942 we were notified in writing by the “Sammelverwaltung Feindlicher Hausgeräte” (“Central Administration of Enemy Household Goods”) at Stolkweg 9 in The Hague that the goods had been seized….)’].
It can be concluded from the aforementioned correspondence that Fanny Mautner received compensation for part of the loss. The NBI file on Fanny Mautner contains an undated list of goods in French that supposedly belonged to Franziska (Fanny) Mautner (hereinafter referred to as the French list) and that according to this list were ‘enleves par les allemands a Amsterdam’ [’seized by the Germans in Amsterdam’]. This list includes ‘1 tableaux de Platzen signe / [valeur] 200 [dol.]’ [‘1 picture by Platzen [sic], signed / [value] 200 [dollars.]’].
No Further Research Required
5. On the grounds of the Decree Establishing the Restitutions Committee, the Committee can ask the Second World War and Restitution Applications Expertise Centre of the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies to launch an investigation into the facts for the purposes of responding to a request for advice submitted to the Committee. In view of the information that became known as a result of the investigation into the provenance of the currently claimed painting in RC 1.89-A in 2009 and the additional information provided by the Applicant, the Committee does not deem further research necessary.
Notification was received on behalf of the Minister that she has no comments on the facts. In a letter of 24 November 2020, the Applicant’s lawyer made a few comments, which the Committee has noted.
Assessment of the Claim
6. The Committee advises on the basis of the yardsticks of reasonableness and fairness. With regard to the ownership issue, the Committee refers to the information given above under 2, 3 and 4, from which it emerges that goods belonging to Alfred and Fanny Mautner were stored in 1939 and that these goods were seized in 1942 by the German occupying forces. The French list of Fanny Mautner’s goods includes ‘1 tableaux de Platzen signe / [valeur] 200 [dol.]’ [‘1 picture by Platzen [sic], signed / [value] 200 [dollars.]’], probably the currently claimed painting. Above all, there is the note on the currently claimed painting’s SNK inventory card, on the grounds of which it can be assumed that on 26 April 1951 the firm of Van der Hoop wrote to HERGO that it had sold the claimed painting ‘voor Dr. A.G. Mautner t.b.v. verr. opslagkosten’ [‘’for Dr A.G. Mautner for the purpose of settling storage costs’]. On the basis of this information the Committee deems it highly plausible that the currently claimed painting belonged to Alfred and Fanny Mautner, as the Committee had already provisionally concluded in 2009 in RC 1.89-A.
7. As regards the circumstances in which Alfred and Fanny Mautner lost possession of the currently claimed painting, according to the Committee it can in any event be assumed that a substantial proportion of the belongings stored by Alfred and Fanny Mautner were seized by the Central Administration of Enemy Household Goods in 1942 as enemy household goods. It is conceivable that after the war Fanny Mautner assumed that the currently claimed painting met the same fate in view of the listing on the French list of a painting by ‘Platzen’. Given the post-war statement by the firm of Van der Hoop that it sold the painting ‘voor Dr. A.G. Mautner t.b.v. verr. opslagkosten’ [‘for Dr A.G. Mautner for the purpose of settling storage costs’] and the timing of the sale of the painting at the Frederik Muller & Co auction house, February 1941, the Committee is of the opinion, however, that it is more likely that the painting was indeed sold by Van der Hoop as stated by them.
It is not known whether this sale took place with the consent of Alfred and Fanny Mautner or on the instructions of the German occupying forces, and the role of Van der Hoop is not entirely clear. In any event this sale was part and parcel of the costs that the Mautners were forced to incur in relation to their flight from the Nazis. In the Committee’s opinion this loss of possession sustained by Alfred and Fanny Mautner has to be designated as involuntary, caused by circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
8. The request for advice concerns an application for restitution of a painting returned to the Netherlands after the end of the Second World War that was taken into custody by the Dutch State with the express instruction to return it – if possible – to the rightful claimants or their heirs. On the basis of the yardsticks of reasonableness and fairness, in the Committee’s opinion a request for restitution of this category of artworks by an heir of the original owner must be granted if it is sufficiently plausible that the original owner lost possession of it involuntarily as a result of circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. Since these requirements are met in this case, the Committee will therefore recommend restitution of the painting to the heirs of Alfred and Fanny Mautner.
As regards linking a payment obligation to handing over the painting, there are no grounds for doing so because Alfred and Fanny Mautner did not have free disposal of the proceeds of the sale of the painting in 1941. It can furthermore be deduced from the documents that have been found that the compensation that was received did not cover more than a part of the lost household effects.
9. The Committee’s considerations can be summarized as follows:
- Before the war the painting The Marriage Feast at Cana by the Austrian artist Johann Georg Platzer was the property of Alfred and Fanny Mautner, who lived in Vienna. After the Nazis came to power in Austria in 1938, they fled to Amsterdam in 1939. The painting was stored along with other household effects in Amsterdam and it was sold in 1941 to pay for the storage costs. It was sold on after that;
- After the war it was returned to the Netherlands and was taken into the custody of the Dutch State with the express instruction to return it – if possible – to the rightful claimants or their heirs. That has not happened so far. The Applicant is the trustee and beneficiary of the DD Trust, to which the rights relating to the estates of Alfred and Fanny Mautner have been transferred and she is asking the Minister to restitute the painting.
- The Committee advises the Minister on the basis of the yardsticks of reasonableness and fairness that this request has to be granted because it is sufficiently plausible that Alfred and Fanny Mautner lost possession of the painting involuntarily as a result of fleeing from the Nazis.