Jonas

NK2828 Portrait of a man with a dog, anonymous (Photo: RCE)

Recommendation regarding Jonas

Recommendation number: 
1.117
Type: 
NK collection
Publishing date: 
19 December 2011
Period loss of possession: 
1940-1945
Private owner/art dealer: 
Art dealership
Location of loss: 
Outside of The Netherlands

In a letter dated 17 November 2009, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science (hereafter referred to as: the Minister) requested the Restitutions Committee (hereafter referred to as: the Committee) for advice concerning an application for restitution submitted by H.S. of P., France (hereafter referred to as: the applicant) on 14 September 2009 concerning two paintings that may have belonged to Edouard Jonas. These are Portrait of a man with a dog, anonymous, and Landscape with cattle in a shallow river by Theobald Michau, which are currently part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection in the custody of the Dutch State, under inventory numbers NK 2828 and NK 2837 (hereafter referred to as: NK collection). The paintings are currently on loan - NK 2828 to the Bonnefanten museum in Maastricht and NK 2837 to the province of Limburg[1].

THE PROCEDURE

Following the Minister’s request for advice, the Committee instigated a fact-finding investigation. The results of the investigation were included in a draft report dated 16 May 2011. In a letter dated 8 August 2011, the Committee sent this draft investigatory report to the applicant for comment, to which she responded in a letter dated 14 September 2011. The draft investigatory report was also sent to the Minister with the request to provide additional information on 8 August 2011. The Minister informed the Committee on 15 September 2011 that she did not have any additional information that she wished to bring to the Committee’s attention. The investigatory report was then adopted on 19 December 2011. The Committee refers to this report for the facts of the case. During the procedure with the Committee, the applicant was represented by I. Gielen, lawyer in Berlin, Germany.

CONSIDERATIONS

  1. The applicant stated that she is the heir of Edouard Léon Jonas and that in this case she is also acting ‘on behalf of the community of heirs of Edouard Jonas’. In this context, the Committee has taken cognisance of several inheritance law documents, on the basis of which the Committee sees no reason to doubt the applicant’s status as potential entitled party in this application. According to the applicant, Edouard Léon Jonas lost possession of the claimed paintings in September 1940 when they were confiscated.

  2. Edouard Léon Jonas (hereafter referred to as: Jonas) was born in Paris on 9 May 1883 and descended from a family of Jewish antique dealers. Before the war he ran an art dealership at Place Vendôme 3 in Paris. As far as the Committee was able to ascertain, this was a one-man business. According to the applicant, Jonas also had a sizeable private art collection. From 1936, Jonas was a member of the French parliament for the socialist and republic union as deputy for the Alpes Maritimes. Jonas was married for the fourth and final time to Assunta Genova Maria Bertozzi. All three previous marriages had ended in divorce. Jonas survived the war and died on 3 December 1961 in Paris. After the German invasion of France on 13 May 1940, Jonas attempted to bring his paintings and antique furniture to safety. On 1 and 10 June 1940, he sent these objects to Bordeaux in two train carriages where they were stored by the firm of R. Médeville & Fils. Pursuant to an act of 23 July 1940 and a regulation of 6 September 1940 proclaimed by the French Vichy regime, Jonas’ French nationality was revoked, after which his possessions were confiscated.

  3. Between 21 and 25 September 1940, the works of art that Jonas had stored in Bordeaux were confiscated by the German Joseph Angerer, one of Hermann Göring’s chief art buyers, assisted by L.L., a French police officer. As appears from the report of the confiscation of Jonas’ possessions, L. remarked to Angerer that Jonas’s seized goods should accrue to the Vichy regime. Nonetheless, Angerer reportedly stood by his demand that the objects be taken to Paris to be sent to Göring. By order of Göring, the works were indeed transferred to Paris and then on to Germany.

  4. In a statement dated 22 June 1960, Jonas declared that the goods confiscated in 1940 were his personal property. A report on Jonas dating from 1956 states the following about the events in 1940: ‘Monsieur Jonas avait cru sage d’envoyer chez Medeville un confrere de Bordeaux une grande partie de ses marchandises’ [Mr Jonas thought it prudent to send a large consignment of merchandise to Medeville]. It is clear from this that this was trading stock.

  5. In Paris, Fritz Schmidt, one of Angerer’s assistants, and others inspected and inventoried the objects. The report drawn up on this occasion has been found. The report describes the works of art confiscated from Jonas’s collection only very briefly but two entries could refer to the currently claimed works. These are: ‘1 portrait d’homme sur bois’ [1 portrait of a man on wood], which might relate to NK 2828 and ‘1 paysage hollandais’ [1 Dutch landscape], which might be NK 2837.

  6. In a letter dated 11 August 1941, Oberkriegsverwaltungsrat Dr Voigt wrote to Directeur des Domaines de la Seine in Paris that a sum of FRF 233,200 (DM 11,660) would be transferred to a bank account in Paris. This sum was said to be the estimated countervalue for Jonas’s goods that had been confiscated in Bordeaux on behalf of Göring. It is noted in documentation found by the Committee that this total was based on ‘giveaway prices’ and had been set by an accomplice of the Germans. In a declaration that Jonas’s widow sent to the German authorities in 1962 during compensation proceedings in Germany (see consideration 7), she reported that this sum had eventually been paid out to Jonas via the  Direction des Domaines.

  7. After the war, Jonas and his wife attempted to recover the goods that had been confiscated in Bordeaux in 1940. To that end, they called in the help of Rose Valland, head of the French Service de Protection des Oeuvres d’Art [service for the protection of art] at the time. This resulted in the restitution of several - in any case five - paintings recovered in Germany. However, a great many of the confiscated objects were not found. Correspondence about the missing paintings with the German authorities contains references to works whose description is highly consistent with the currently claimed paintings. For example in a letter dated 2 February 1961, the painting’Allemande 1571 Maître de Westphalie “Homme avec son chien”‘ [German school 1571 Master of Westphalia ‘Man with his dog’] is mentioned, whereas in her letter of 1 March 1961, Rose Valland refers to the painting: ‘Paysage hollandais - XVIIIº s’ (…) attribué successivement á Theobald Michou et á l’Ecole de Tournai (1676-1765)’[Dutch landscape - 18th century (…)successively attributed to Theobald Michou and to the Tournai School (1676-1765)].

  8. On 13 March 1963, Jonas’s widow reached a settlement with the German state to the amount of DM 500,000. This settlement was an arrangement concerning compensation claims that Jonas could, at that point, assert against the German state (‘Abgeltung aller rückerstattungsrechtlichen Schadenersatzansprüche für sämtliche - den Geschädigten: Edouard Jéan Jonas in Frankreich - entzogenen Gegenstände’). [As payment for all claims for damages that are subject to restitution for all objects taken from the claimant Edouard Jéan Jonas in France].

  9. On the basis of current restitution policy, it is of importance in assessing the current claim that Jonas’s title to the currently claimed paintings (NK 2828 and NK 2837) is proved with a high degree of probability and that possession of them was lost involuntarily due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.

  10. Where the question of title is concerned, reference is first made to the entry on the list of confiscated works of art drawn up in Paris, on which the two works may feature (see consideration 5 for this). However, the description on this list is not enough to rely on when it comes to identifying the currently claimed paintings.

    Moreover, the provenance reconstruction by the Bureau Herkomst Gezocht [Origins Unknown Agency], hereafter referred to as: BHG) gives the name ‘Jonas, Paris’, and the date October 1940, for both the current NK 2828 and NK 2837. This BHG reconstruction is also based on a list of paintings from Hermann Göring’s art collection in the Federal Archive in Koblenz, which was drawn up by the Allies after the war. Both currently claimed works are recorded on this list, with a reference to ‘Angerer, Jonas’ and ‘Bordeaux’

    NK 2828

  11. With regard to the identification of the current NK 2828 as former property of Jonas, the following facts are of importance. Under number 637 on the list from the Federal Archive in Koblenz mentioned in consideration 10 concerning Hermann Göring’s art collection is a painting by a ‘Westfälischer Meister’ [Westphalian master]. The description of this painting on the list is highly consistent with the current NK 2828. The description includes the notes ‘Angerer Jonas Bordeaux’ and ‘Okt. 1940’ [October 1940]. The list refers to an exchange of paintings between Göring and Amsterdam art dealer Alois Miedl on 9 February 1944. This exchange is a transaction between Hermann Göring and Alois Miedl or to the art dealership ran at that time by Miedl, ‘Kunsthandel voorheen J. Goudstikker NV’ in Amsterdam (hereafter referred to as: Goudstikker-Miedl). In this transaction on 9 February 1944, some 140 paintings from Göring’s art collection were exchanged for the painting Christus en de overspelige vrouw’ [Christ and the Adulteress], which was believed to be a Vermeer at the time but turned out to have been painted by Han van Meegeren, a forger.

    That this painting left Göring’s collection as a consequence of an exchange with Miedl is confirmed by another list in the Federal Archive in Koblenz  entitled ‘Tausch Göring - Goudstikker 9.2.1944’. This list also mentions a work by a ‘Westphalian master’, referring to the number 637 which was also on the list cited above.

    NK 2837

  12. This work is also mentioned on the above list concerning Göring’s collection. Under number 645 the list mentions a painting by ‘Theobald Michau’, the description of which is consistent with the depiction in NK 2837. The description of this work also contains references to ‘Angerer Jonas Bordeaux’ and ‘Oct. 1940’. The list concerning ‘Exchange Göring’ (see consideration 11) includes a painting by Michau, Theobald’ with the designation ‘RM 645’ mentioned on the Göring list.

  13. After Jonas’s paintings had been confiscated in Bordeaux in 1940, they were taken to Germany, where they were incorporated into Hermann Göring’s collection. As part of the exchange between Göring and Miedl on 9 February 1944, described in consideration 11, the paintings then found their way to Goudstikker-Miedl in the Netherlands. Goudstikker-Miedl probably never sold NK 2828. On 1 April 1944, Goudstikker-Miedl sold NK 2837 to the German Dr Erhard Göpel, who bought artworks for the Führermuseum which was to be set up in Linz. This work was returned to the Netherlands after the war. The Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit [Netherlands Art Property Foundation] (hereafter referred to as: SNK) was then given custody of the two works. During the investigation, no indications were found from which the Committee could conclude that the SNK knew at the time that the works were part of Jonas’s estate.

  14. On the basis of facts set out in the above considerations, the Committee considers it proven to a high degree of probability that the two claimed works (NK 2828 and NK 2837) were from Jonas’s estate. In addition, with reference to considerations 3 and 4, the Committee deems that Jonas involuntarily lost possession of the works as a result of consequences directly related to the Nazi regime.

  15. In respect of the importance of the settlement described in consideration 8, the Committee finds that this does not stand in the way of the applicant’s admissibility with regard to the current claim. The settlement with the German State did not entail a waiver of her rights to the lost works of art, and furthermore, the State of the Netherlands was not a party to this agreement. Given that there are no indications that the Jonas family has ever submitted an application for restitution with the Dutch authorities in connection with the currently claimed works, the Committee deems that this is not a case that has been settled in the past within the meaning of currently applicable restitutions policy.

  16. With reference to the compensation received from the French and the German states for all loss and damage suffered in connection with the confiscation of the works of art, the Committee finds the following. If it could be ascertained at all which part of the amounts received relate to the currently claimed works, any possible repayment of this sum of money would be a matter between Jonas’s heirs and the French and German states respectively. The Committee therefore believes that the Dutch state should not attach a payment condition to the restitution of NK 2828 and NK 2837.

  17. Finally, with regard to the question of whether the current paintings were Jonas’s private property or part of his art dealership’s trading stock  (see consideration 5), the Committee concludes the following. In an excerpt from the French trade register of 1959, Jonas is regarded as ‘Proprietaire exploitant’ on the basis of which the Committee assumes that Jonas’s dealership was a one-man business. The consequence of this with regard to the question as to who should now be regarded as the entitled parties in the event of restitution is that these are the parties entitled to Jonas’s inheritance, regardless of whether the works were part of the trading stock or Jonas’s private property. The fact that after the war, the German authorities regarded Jonas, and later his widow, as the rightful owners of the works confiscated in Bordeaux was for the Committee a further indication that this was a one-man business.

CONCLUSION

The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to return the painting Portrait of a man with a dog, anonymous (NK 2828), and the painting  Landscape with cattle in a shallow river by Theobald Michau (NK 2837) to the rightful heirs to the estate of Edouard Léon Jonas.

Adopted at the meeting of 19 December 2011 by W.J.M. Davids (chair), J.Th.M. Bank, P.J.N. van Os, E.J. van Straaten, H.M. Verrijn Stuart, I.C. van der Vlies (vice-chair), and signed by the chair and the secretary.

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



[1] Text correction: NK 2837 is housed in the depot of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage