On 2 April 2002, the State secretary for OCenW asked the Restitutions Committee for its advice regarding an application for the restitution of the painting ‘Venus in Vulcan’s Smithy’ after F. Boucher (NK 3298). On 10 October 2001, Mr. M. had, also on his sister’s behalf, applied to the State secretary for restitution of this painting, which originally had been owned by his Jewish grandparents.
Summary of documentary report
The painting ‘Venus in Vulcan’s Smithy’, a copy (dated to the second half of the18th century) after a painting by F. Boucher, was part of the Dutch national art collection (inventory number NK 3298). It was discovered that before and during the war the painting had belonged to Mrs. M.-M, who originally was of Hungarian nationality. During the war, as a result of the anti-Jewish measures, she had been forced to surrender the painting to Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co., the German body specialising in looting. The records of this body, part of which had been preserved and were found after the war, provided a detailed list of the valuables that she had surrendered. As was common practice for these bodies during the war, this painting was re-sold to a German art dealer. Mrs. M.-M. did not survive the war, and neither did many of the members of her immediate family.
In 1948, the painting was recovered and initially deemed to be the former property of Mrs. M.-M. However, an application for the restitution of the painting by the son of Mrs. M.-M would prove to be a long and difficult process. In the end, at the end of the 1950s, the claim foundered on complications regarding tax debts of Mrs. M.-M.’s spouse, Mr. M., as the tax authorities tried to confiscate assets from his estate. Aside from questions that arose regarding the tax assessments imposed on Mr. M. during the war, it appeared in addition that an important aspect of property law had been overlooked at that time. The painting had been classified as part of Mr. M.’s estate whereas in fact it had belonged to Mrs. M.-M. Even though Mr. M. and Mrs. M.-M. were married, they did not have any matrimonial property and had lived apart. Therefore, the painting had never been part of Mr. M.’s assets.
In the meeting on 22 April 2002, the Restitutions Committee decided on its advice, namely that the painting should be restituted to the heirs of Mrs. M.-M. The committee considered it proven that Mrs. M.-M. was the former owner of the painting and that the loss of possession during the war had been involuntary. In the committee’s opinion, the application by the grandson of Mrs. M.-M. had, within the context of the government policy, to be seen as a new claim. Now that it had been established that the earlier decision was based on the erroneous assumption that Mr. M. was the owner of the painting, a decision made on this basis could not be deemed to be valid.
The State secretary for OCenW adopted this advice and ruled in favour of the restitution of the painting.
Venus in Vulcan’s Smithy after F. Boucher