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Recommendation regarding the application for the restitution of a saucer, so-called ‘klapmutsschoteltje’ (NK 593) and the painting Woman and child at a cradle by J.S.H. Kever (NK 2231)

A saucer and the painting Woman and child at a cradle by J.S.H. Kever

Report number: RC 1.27

Advice type: NK collection

Advice date: 12 March 2007

Period of loss of ownership: 1940-1945

Original owner: Art dealership

Location of loss of ownership: The Netherlands

NK 2231 – Woman and child at a cradle by J.S.H. Kever (photo: RCE)

  • NK 2231 - Woman and child at a cradle by J.S.H. Kever (photo: RCE)


In a letter dated 7 February 2005, A.A. asked the Restitutions Committee for the return of works of art from the Netherlands Art Property Collection that had belonged to his uncle, Marcus Frederik de Vries, a Jewish art dealer. In reply to this, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) asked the Restitutions Committee in a letter dated 28 February 2005 to issue a recommendation about nine works of art (NK 1756, NK 2727, NK 3303, NK 1018, NK 2047, NK 2059, NK 1930, NK 593 and NK 2231). After A.A.’s death on 28 December 2005, his daughter B.B. took her father’s place as applicant. For reasons to be discussed below, B.B. (hereafter referred to as ‘applicant’), subsequently amended the application to include only the saucer (NK 593) and the painting Woman and child at a cradle by the artist J.S.H. Kever (NK 2231). The saucer is currently in the Zuiderzee museum in Enkhuizen and the painting at the Dutch Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

The procedure

With reference to the original application for restitution made by A.A., the Restitutions Committee conducted a further investigation into the provenance of the nine works referred to above. The results were summarised in a draft report that was sent to A.A.’s heirs for comment on 16 January 2006. At the request of the heirs, A.A.’s nephew M.M. replied to this letter on 28 March 2006. It was established during the investigation that A.A. was not M.F. de Vries’ heir. After the death of her father, the applicant therefore informed the Committee by telephone on 31 October 2006 that she was withdrawing the application for restitution, in so far as the objects formerly belonging to M.F. de Vries were concerned, and upholding the application for the objects NK 593 and NK 2231, which may have been part of the trading stock of her grandfather’s art dealership (Galerie Lemaire).[1] The Committee confirmed this in a letter of 7 November 2006. As a result of the amended claim, the Committee drew up a new draft report which was sent to the applicant for comment on 7 November 2006. The applicant was also requested to provide additional information regarding the claimed objects. On 2 January 2007, the applicant said that she had found no further information in the files of Galerie Lemaire. The draft report was also sent to the Minister for OCW, who informed the Committee that there was no additional information. The report was adopted on 12 March 2007. For the facts of the case, the Committee refers to its investigatory report, which is considered an integral part of this recommendation.

[1] Afterwards, the applicant’s father continued this art dealership and the applicant herself currently runs the business.

General considerations

a) The Committee has drawn up its opinion with due regard for the relevant (lines of) policy issued by the Ekkart Committee and the government.

b) The Committee asked itself whether it is acceptable that an opinion to be issued is influenced by its potential consequences for decisions in subsequent cases. The Committee resolved that such influence cannot be accepted, save in cases where special circumstances apply, since allowing such influence would be impossible to justify to the applicant concerned.

c) The Committee then asked itself how to deal with the circumstance that certain facts can no longer be ascertained, that certain information has been lost or has not been recovered, or that evidence can no longer be otherwise compiled. On this issue, the Committee believes that if the problems that have arisen can be attributed at least in part to the lapse of time, the associated risk should be borne by the government, save in cases where exceptional circumstances apply.

d) The Committee believes that insights and circumstances which, according to generally accepted views, have evidently changed since the Second World War should be granted the status of new facts.

e) Involuntary loss of possession is also understood to mean sale without the art dealer’s consent by ‘Verwalters’ [Nazi-appointed caretakers who took over management of firms owned by Jews] or other custodians not appointed by the owner of items from the old trading stock under their custodianship, in so far as the original owner or his heirs did not receive all the profits of the transaction, or in so far as the owner did not expressly waive his rights after the war.

Special considerations

  1. The applicant requests the restitution of the saucer (NK 593) and the painting Woman and child at a cradle by J.S.H. Kever (NK 2231) as heir of her father, A.A.. The applicant states that she is also acting on behalf of the other heirs.
  2. The fact-finding investigation has shown the following. In the 1920s, the applicant’s grandfather Matthias Ludovicus Joannes Lemaire (1891-1979) established Galerie Lemaire, an art dealership specialising in ethnographic art. During the war, the gallery had its premises at Leidsestraat street in Amsterdam. Lemaire’s wife, Mietje de Vries, was Jewish, he himself was not. The couple had two children, A.A. (the original applicant) and T.F.L.. During the occupation of the Netherlands, the family was active in the resistance movement, distributing the ‘Parool’ newspaper and helping Jewish people who had gone into hiding. The family managed to come through the war safely. Mietje de Vries’ brother, art dealer Marcus Frederik de Vries, did not survive the war, however. He perished in Auschwitz on 18 July 1942. Mietje de Vries’ mother, the applicant’s great-grandmother, died in Sobibor on 2 July 1943, despite efforts taken by M.L.J. Lemaire to procure an exit visa for his mother-in-law, involving payment of a sum of NLG 30,000 on 30 June 1943. Half of this sum was taken from money that he held in safekeeping for his (diseased) brother-in-law, M.F. de Vries. The applicant stated that the purpose of selling the claimed painting by Kever was to finance this attempt at securing her release.
  3. Few details are available about the dealings of Galerie Lemaire during the occupation years. As M.L.J. Lemaire was not Jewish, the art dealership was not placed under the administration of a Verwalter. Extant documents in archives did not show that Lemaire made any attempts after the war to recover any works of art which were involuntarily lost due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. No files pertaining to the Galerie Lemaire were found in the archive of the Netherlands Art Property Foundation.
  4. Pursuant to current national policy with regard to the restitution of items of cultural value, restitution may be recommended provided a plausible case has been made that the claimed objects were originally the property of (the art dealership) M.L.J. Lemaire and that the original owners involuntarily lost possession thereof due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. The applicable government policy for the restitution of art works belonging to art dealers is explained in detail in the Ekkart Committee’s document ‘Recommendations regarding the restitution of artworks of art dealers’ (January 2003). Although these guidelines apply in particular to Jewish art dealers, applicability extends beyond that. Pursuant to the recommendations it is important here that the loss of property of works of art through sales by both Jewish and non-Jewish art dealers during the war years – other than sales effected by private Jewish persons – is not assumed to have been of an involuntary nature, given that ‘the majority of transactions conducted involved, in principal, normal sales, in Jewish art dealerships too.’ A reasonable case should be made for the possibility that Lemaire’s loss of the claimed objects was involuntary.
  5. In respect of the saucer, the investigation showed that it was in Galerie Lemaire’s trading stock in 1943 and that it came into the possession of the Thaulow Museum in Kiel, Germany, in 1943 or 1944, which had, in that same year, acquired several objects of applied art from Galerie Lemaire. The investigation did not, however, reveal any evidence that sales were involuntary due to circumstances directly linked to the Nazi regime. As mentioned above, the art dealership had not been placed under the administration of a Verwalter, and therefore no involuntary sales took place for that reason. In addition, as appears from the archive of the Netherlands Art Property Foundation, Lemaire did not report the loss of this object nor did he correspond about its return. The additional fact that the saucer was sold to a German museum does not directly point to an involuntary sale, as would possibly have been the case had the object been sold to Nazi art buyer. Finally, there is no evidence to suggest that the saucer was sold to fund efforts to secure the release of M.L.J. Lemaire’s mother-in-law in 1943, or that the sale was directly linked to the funding of resistance activities. The Committee therefore assumes that the sale was voluntary and recommends rejecting the application for the restitution of this object.
  6. As regards ownership of the claimed painting NK 2231, the Committee finds as follows. Documents in the archive of Amsterdam auction firm Mak van Waay showed that Galerie Lemaire put the painting up for auction on 22 December 1942, where it was bought by art dealer Oncken in Oldenburg, Germany. On the basis of information supplied by the original applicant, A.A., the Committee considers it plausible that the work was the property of art dealer Marcus Frederik de Vries, who had it put in storage at the art dealership of his brother-in-law Lemaire, along with seven other paintings. The Committee also considers it plausible that after De Vries’ death, Lemaire had the painting NK 2231 sold at auction on behalf of the latter’s widow Solvejg Fuchs, who was of Jewish extraction and in hiding at the time. The Committee come to this conclusion on the basis of a note A.A. made on a photograph of the painting: ’This painting “Woman at cradle” was sold by my father at an auction for Solvejg-Fuchs. This painting was brought by Marcus [Frederik de Vries, RC], together with seven other paintings, […]. These seven paintings were all in storage at my father’s house, Leidschestraat no. 29 in Amsterdam. Sold by Solvejg or my father Lemaire during the war years.
  7. As it has not been made plausible that the painting NK 2231 was the property of (Galerie) Lemaire, it is the Committee’s opinion that the applicant cannot claim the restitution of the work. In the light of the above, the Committee is of the opinion that the application for restitution of the saucer (NK 593) and the painting Woman and child at a cradle by J.S.H. Kever (NK 2231) are not admissible.


The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to reject B.B.’s application.

Adopted at the meeting of 12 March 2007,

B.J. Asscher (chair)
J.Th.M. Bank
J.C.M. Leijten
P.J.N. van Os
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart
I.C. van der Vlies