The Landing Stage by M.F. van der Hulst (Semmel/Groninger Museum)

The Landing Stage by Maarten Fransz. van der Hulst

Binding opinion in the dispute on restitution of the painting The Landing Stage by van Maarten Fransz. van der Hulst from the estate of Richard Semmel, currently owned by Stichting Kunstbezit en Oudheden Groninger Museum

Recommendation number: 
RC 3.126
Type: 
Binding expert opinion
Publishing date: 
25 April 2013
Period loss of possession: 
1933-1940
Private owner/art dealer: 
Private individual
Location of loss: 
The Netherlands

BINDING OPINION

in the dispute between:

A.A. and B.B.,
of C. and D. (South Africa), respectively
represented by lawyer Olaf S. Ossmann
of Winterthur (Switzerland)
(hereafter also referred to as: the applicants),

and:

Stichting Kunstbezit en Oudheden Groninger Museum,
represented by Andreas Blühm, director Stichting Groninger Museum voor stad en lande
in Groningen
(hereafter also referred to as: the Museum),

issued by the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War in The Hague (the Restitutions Committee), also called: the Committee.


1.  THE DISPUTE

The Stichting Kunstbezit en Oudheden Groninger Museum has, since 1948, owned a painting entitled The Landing Stage by the artist Maerten Fransz. van der Hulst (previously attributed to Jan Josefsz. van Goyen). This work of art is currently in the collection of the Groninger Museum. The applicants state that Jewish entrepreneur Richard Semmel (1875-1950, hereafter also referred to as: Semmel) of Berlin owned the painting until November 1933. The applicants state that they are “the heirs of Richard Semmel” and claim restitution of the artwork on account of what they adduce was involuntarily lost possession due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. The parties have submitted a joint request to the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science (hereafter also referred to as: the State Secretary) to submit the applicants’ claim to the Committee for binding opinion.

2.  THE PROCEDURE

In a letter dated 31 August 2011, the State Secretary asked the Committee to advise the parties in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 2, paragraph 2 of the Decree Establishing the Restitutions Committee of 16 November 2001 (hereafter referred to as: the Decree). In letters of the same date, the State Secretary advised the parties of his request for advice to the Committee, in which he underlined that his intermediation was for practical reasons, and that at no time would the State become party to the dispute.

The parties declared in writing that they would defer to the ‘Regulations (established by the Committee) on the binding opinion procedure pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 2, and Article 4, paragraph 2, of the Decree establishing the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and  the Second World War’ (hereafter referred to as: the Regulations’),  and that they would consider the Committee’s recommendation to be binding, which the applicants did in a letter dated 6 October 2011 and the Museum did in a letter dated 21 October 2011. The Committee has verified the identities of the parties. The Museum has submitted a power of attorney showing that the director is authorised to act on behalf of the Stichting Kunstbezit en Oudheden Groninger Museum in this procedure. The applicants have submitted three notarial certificates of inheritance showing that they are the heirs to Richard Semmel’s estate.

The Committee has taken cognisance of all documents submitted by the parties and has conducted its own further investigation. The findings of the investigation, by both the parties and the Committee, have been documented in a draft investigatory report sent to the parties for comment on 27 April 2012. The applicants responded to this in a letter dated 1 June 2012, submitting further documents. The Museum responded to the draft report in a letter dated 6 June 2012. The Committee subsequently conducted further research, the results of which were sent to the applicants and the Museum in a letter dated 25 February 2013. This binding opinion includes the relevant information from the investigation and the parties’ replies.

Article 9 of the Regulations stipulates that the parties must immediately send the other party a copy of all documents they submit to the Committee in this procedure. However, the parties did not comply with this during this procedure. Consequently, in letters dated 8 March 2013 and 11 March 2013, the Committee sent the applicants and the Museum the documents that were missing at that point.

On 7 February 2013, a video call was held with the chair and the director of the Committee and the applicants in Cape Town (South Africa) and lawyer Ossmann (Switzerland) with a telephone connection. During this call, E.E., the husband of applicant A.A., read out a statement and spoke on behalf of the applicants.

The case was discussed in a hearing on 5 March 2013. The applicants were represented by their lawyer Olaf Ossmann, accompanied by historian Beate Schreiber of the historical investigation bureau Facts & Files of Berlin. The Museum was represented by Caspar Martens (head of collections). At the hearing, a DVD of the conversation with the applicants on 7 February 2013 was shown.

3.  THE FACTS

In this procedure, the Committee assumes the following facts:

3.1. Richard Semmel was born in Zobten am Berge, located in Germany at the time but currently Sobótka in Poland, on 15 September 1875. He was a wealthy German entrepreneur and art collector of Jewish descent. When the Nazis assumed power in Germany in 1933, he owned the textile plant Arthur Samulon in Berlin and was living in a villa in this city with his wife, Clara Cäcilie Brück, where he had amassed a sizeable art collection. The couple did not have any children. The applicants stated that, while they were living in Berlin, their grandparents were close friends of the Semmels, and that this friendship dated back to the period during which the two families were still living in Zobten am Berge. On 27 June 2002, F.F., the applicants’ mother, gave evidence in the context of restoration of rights procedures regarding Semmel’s property in which she stated that, as a child, she often visited Semmel’s villa in Berlin.

3.2. Shortly after the Nazi’s coup d’etat in 1933, Semmel experienced the consequences of the anti-Jewish climate in Germany. According to the applicants, he came under such severe pressure from the Nazis that he fled the country in April 1933. In a post-war statement about his persecution during the Nazi regime, Semmel said the following about this:

‘Im Anschluß hieran will ich noch sagen, daß der Inhalt der Schreiben von Peck u. Gross nur zum kleine Teil zeigen, was ich durch den Beginn der Hitler-Zeit zu leiden hatte. Ich wurde buchstäblich Tag und Nacht mit Drohungen telefonisch und schriftlich bombardiert, unflätige Zettel kamen täglich in meine Wohnung, es war eine von der Nazipartei organisierte Hetze mit Hilfe der aufgepeitschten Angestellten.  Obgleich ich immer Demokrat war, hat man behauptet, ich konspiriere mit Severing u. Braun, weil Severing mal in meinem Kontor war und um Beisteuerung für einen Jugendbund bat, dessen Name mir entfallen ist. Man behauptete, ich hätte nicht nur mein Haus, auch Waren vom Geschäft ins Ausland verschoben. Ich war gerade geschäftlich in St. Gallen, als die Hitler-Katastrophe hereinbrach, sofort kam ich zurück, wurde schon auf dem Bahnhof bei der Ankunft gewarnt, in meine Wohnung zu gehen, so daß ich ein Zimmer in dem Hotel in der Fasanenstr. nahm. Wie richtig diese Maßnahme war, sollte sich bald zeigen, denn im Geschäft spielten sich die Vertrauensleute der Nazis als Herren auf und es kam so weit, daß ich, wie schon gesagt, im letzten Moment nach Holland entkam.’

According to the applicants, Semmel’s persecution at this early stage of the Nazi regime was because of his involvement in the Deutsche Demokratische Partei, but above all because he was a Jewish owner of a large textile plant in Berlin. The Nazi authorities’ attempts to control and aryanise the textile industry would have made Semmel, a leading figure in the industry, a key target. The applicants claimed that Semmel had incurred losses as a result of the economic crisis of the 1930s and that he had financial and other obligations going back to the period before the Nazi regime. However, according to the applicants, his business was sound enough to deal with this, had there been no anti-Jewish measures by the national socialists. The applicants state that the boycott of Jewish shops and business organised on 1 April 1933, the intervention in the company by the Treuhänder der Arbeit appointed by the Nazi authorities, and the financial measures taken by Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank under the influence of the Nazi regime ultimately led to Semmel losing his company and his capital.

After fleeing Germany in 1933, Semmel settled in the Netherlands. In 1939, he left the Netherlands again, to eventually settle in New York in 1941. Various sources suggest that Semmel had to pay Reichsfluchtsteuer when fleeing Germany. The applicants have stated that Semmel also paid the Nazi authorities Judenvermögensabgabe.

Semmel put up part of his art collection for auction by the firm Frederik Muller & Cie. in Amsterdam on 21 November 1933. One of the works of art put up for auction is the currently claimed painting. Documentation drawn up as part of a restoration of rights procedure by F.F. in Germany in the 1990s suggests that Semmel used the proceeds of the sales of these works of art to pay his costs of living, to continue to meet various financial obligations in Germany dating from before the Nazi regime, and in attempts to retain his capital in Germany. There is no further information on the time at which and way in which the works of art from the Semmel collection came to the Netherlands.

3.3. In her statement referred to above under 3.1, F.F. said that she emigrated to South-Africa in 1937, while her mother, Grete Gross-Eisenstädt (the applicants’ grandmother) fled to Cuba in 1939, and settled in New York two years later. In New York, Grete Gross-Eisenstädt renewed acquaintances with the Semmels, who were living there in destitute circumstances. Grete Gross-Eisenstädt is said to have cared for Semmel, who was in very poor health, on a daily basis after his wife’s death in 1945. F.F. stated that her mother was named sole heir as thanks for looking after him. The Committee’s file contains a certificate of inheritance dated 16 September 1997 as proof of this. Semmel died in New York on 2 December 1950. Grete Gross-Eisenstädt died in New York on 22 January 1958.

3.4. The painting in question has long been considered a work by painter Jan van Goyen, but in 1972 art historian Hans-Ulrich Beck, who specialises in Van Goyen’s work, attributed it to the painter Maerten Fransz. van der Hulst. Publications by Beck and other sources consulted show that it was put up for auction on 5 May 1906 by auction house J. Fievez in Brussels. In July and August 1925, the work of art was part of the exhibition ‘Gemälde alter Meister aus Berliner Besitz’ in the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. In the accompanying exhibition catalogue, ‘R. S.’ is given as ‘Besitzer’ of the work of art. Photo cards of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) and other art historical sources suggest that ‘R. S.’ is Richard Semmel of Berlin. In 1930, P. Wescher published an article on the paintings from the Semmel collection in the art magazine Pantheon. A passage about ‘holländischen Landschaften’ from this collection includes a reference to a ‘Goyen’, possibly the painting in question.

The painting was put up for auction on 21-24 November 1933 by the firm Frederik Muller & Cie. in Amsterdam. According to information from the RKD, the firm drafted two catalogues and two supplement catalogues for this auction. The work of art in question is mentioned in a catalogue of old paintings ‘provenant de diverses collections privées’ that were auctioned off on 21 November 1933 (lot number and illustration 16). No provenance name is given for the painting, only a reference to the above-mentioned 1925 Berlin exhibition. The cover and title page of a copy of this catalogue from the RKD has the following hand-written annotation below ‘provenant de diverses collections privées’: ‘(including R. Semmel from Berlin)’. It is not known to which of the individual paintings mentioned in this catalogue the annotation refers. Notes in copies of the auction catalogue of Frederik Muller & Cie. at the Rijksmuseum and the Amsterdam University Library suggest that the currently claimed painting was probably sold at auction for NLG 1,100. It is not known who the buyer of the art work was. An investigation by the Committee of the back of the currently claimed painting has not yielded any further provenance data.

3.5. The Museum acquired the painting at hand in 1948 through a bequest from Geziena Wilhelmina Slingenberg (1879-1948). She was the widow of former psychiatry and neurology professor Klaas Herman Bouman (1874-1947). A Museum report for the 1944-1948 period shows that the bequest comprised a large number of artworks, from which the Museum made a selection. The bequest was acquired 'encumbered with inheritance tax and on condition that the provenance is given as “Bouman-Slingenberg Bequest”’. It is not known when and from whom the Bouman-Slingenbergs obtained the currently claimed painting. When asked, the Museum stated that they did not have an archive for the couple and that the Museum’s archive does not contain any explanation as to the conditions of the bequest.

3.6. An investigation by the Committee did not yield any evidence that Semmel or the parties entitled to his inheritance tried to regain possession of the currently claimed painting after the war, or to obtain compensation for the loss of possession. The current painting is not mentioned in the archive of lawyer Benno J. Stokvis, who successively represented Semmel and Grete Gross-Eisenstädt in the Netherlands, which can be found in the Amsterdam City Archives. This archive does, however, refer to various other works of art from the Semmel collection, including objects that had been surrendered to the German looting organisation Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. of Sarphatistraat in Amsterdam during the occupation of the Netherlands (1940-1945) and for which Semmel sought restoration of rights after the war.

4.  THE APPLICANTS' POSITION

4.1. The applicants claim that Semmel put up the painting in question, The Landing Stage, for auction at the firm Frederik Muller & Cie. on 21 November 1933. In this context, they referred to two sources listed in the overview of the facts (see 3.4), viz. the 1925 exhibition catalogue ‘Gemälde alter Meister aus Berliner Besitz’, in which ‘R. S.’ is listed as ‘Besitzer’ of the work of art, and the article by P. Wescher on the paintings from the Semmel collection in the art magazine Pantheon from 1930, in which a ‘Goyen’ is mentioned in a passage on ‘holländischen Landschaften’.

4.2. The applicants also state that all 71 paintings (69 lot numbers) from the catalogue of the auction on 21 November 1933 at the firm Frederik Muller & Cie. came from Semmel. According to the applicants, the auction house could not publicise this provenance name, one of the reasons being that Semmel had transferred the paintings from Nazi Germany to the Netherlands without an export permit. To explain the fact that the title of the auction catalogue refers to multiple parties (‘provenant de diverses collections privées’), the applicants argue that this reference relates to other works of art that were auctioned off at the firm Frederik Muller & Cie. from 21 to 24 November 1933, particularly paintings mentioned in a supplement catalogue of the auction house: ‘The plural refers to the supplement catalogue’.

4.3. The applicants have argued that Semmel lost possession of the currently claimed work of art involuntarily as a result of circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. They state that the economic difficulties Semmel was having as a result of increasing pressure from the Nazi regime prompted him to sell part of his collection, including the painting in question. According to the applicants, Semmel was forced to sell works of art at auctions in Amsterdam because he needed funds to save his business in Germany: ‘The actions of the National Socialists against Richard Semmel resulted in the enormous damage of his businesses. The “trustee of work” (Treuhänder der Arbeit) was demanding no staff reduction; the options for selling the products were limited due to the boycott of Jewish businesses and increasing demands by the banks. Therefore assets were needed. As there were no other assets left and accessible to him, Richard Semmel started to sell his art collection. The auctions in Amsterdam were caused by the political and “racial” persecution of Richard Semmel by the Nazis in early 1933. In consequence they should be regarded as forced sales’. The applicants also said the following about the proceeds from the auction: ‘Proceeds of the auction have been used to pay discriminating debts of the Third Reich’.

4.4. Concerning the extent of the efforts made to have the painting returned after the war, the applicants stated that, at the time, Semmel did not have any information on the whereabouts of the paintings that had been auctioned off in and after 1933. He was very ill and, according to the applicants, tried to claim property for which documentation was available. The applicants do not know whether Semmel asked the firm Frederik Muller & Cie. about the paintings that had been put up for auction, and the company’s archive has not been preserved. According to the applicants, attempts by their own family to trace documentation on the paintings from the Semmel collection initially came to nothing. The search for what happened to the Semmel collection was given new impetus when in the 1990s their mother, F.F., instigated a procedure in Germany to obtain compensation in relation to the Semmel property.

4.5. The applicants have described their interest in the current painting as ‘Getting family history back’. In the call with the Committee on 7 February 2013, E.E., A.A.’s husband, stated on behalf of the applicants that, to them, the paintings from the Semmel collection are interwoven with the histories of persecution and flight of their own family and Semmel’s. In this context, the applicants stated that their grandmother, Grete Gross-Eisenstädt, and her husband were close friends of Semmel in Berlin and that, after their flight from Germany and their lives falling apart, that friendship between the two families was continued in New York, where Grete Gross-Eisenstädt cared for the sick and destitute Semmel until his death. According to the applicants, F.F., who had fled to South Africa and never saw her mother again, remembered how, as a young girl, she had admired the paintings in Semmel’s home. The many conversations with her about the magnificence of the Semmel collection and what happened to it supposedly brought home to the applicants how their own family was connected with this collection: ‘Over the years our mother often talked to us about Mr Semmel’s art collection, telling us what a grand collection it was. And we began to understand just how important the collection was to Mr Semmel and how our family was emotionally tied to it. Our mother could never get over that. She used to say how terrible it was that these paintings were stolen from him [...]’. In this context the applicants claimed that, as Semmel’s heirs, they consider it justified to have returned to them what is rightfully theirs. The applicants also stated that they have never seen the paintings from the Semmel collection themselves and that, in general, their mother did not remember any details about the paintings she had seen in Semmel’s home as a child.

4.6. During the video call the applicants stated that, at this point in time, they cannot yet say what they will do with any paintings from the Semmel collection that will be returned. According to the applicants, the family was forced to sell a different painting from the Semmel collection that belonged to the Netherlands Art Property Collection until 2009 and that had been returned in case RC 1.75 at the recommendation of the Committee in order to pay the high costs of the lengthy investigation.

4.7. The applicants also said that if the Committee were to advise returning the currently claimed painting to them, they would be open to an arrangement under which the painting could remain in the Museum, but only upon payment of the painting's fair market value.

5.  THE MUSEUM'S POSITION

5.1. The Museum has stated that no provenance investigation was conducted prior to acquisition of the current painting in a bequest from 1948. The Museum has also stated that ‘there is no evidence to show that the Groninger Museum or Bouwman-Slingenberg, from whom the museum acquired this work, knew about the painting’s background.’ In general, the Museum is said not to have a very strong tradition of performing (provenance) research into 17th century paintings, as it is not considered one of the Museum’s core collections. In this context, the Museum also declared that they are not specialised in 17th century paintings and that they do not have a curator with specific knowledge of art from this period.

5.2. The Museum considers this painting a ‘depot piece’ that is not a ‘stronghold’ in the collection. No indications were found in the Museum’s administration that the painting had been exhibited for the past 20 to 25 years or had been loaned to other museums during that period. As far as could be ascertained, the Museum never restored the painting. The painting is covered by the Museum’s collection insurance and has not been separately insured or valued. There are no current plans to include the painting in future presentations.

5.3. During the hearing, the Museum stated that it would not attempt to retain the painting for the collection. In the Museum’s view, it is up to the Restitutions Committee to rule on this matter.

6. THE COMMITTEE'S TASK

6.1. On the grounds of article 2 paragraph 2 of the Decree Establishing the Restitutions Committee, the Committee is tasked at the request of the parties to issue an opinion about disputes relating to the return of items of cultural value between the owner who, as a result of circumstances directly linked to the Nazi regime, involuntarily lost possession, or his or her heirs, and the current owner, not being the State of the Netherlands. In accordance with article 2 paragraph 5 of the Decree Establishing the Restitutions Committee, the Committee gives opinions on the basis of the yardsticks of justice and fairness. This opinion is a binding opinion within the meaning of article 7:900 of the Dutch Civil Code.

6.2. First the Committee states that, in accordance with article 3 of the Regulations, during the considerations when preparing its opinion it can in any event take account of the circumstances in which possession of the work was lost, the degree to which the parties requesting restitution have made efforts to recover the work, as well as the timing and the circumstances of the acquisition of the possession by the current owner and the investigation conducted by him before the acquisition. It can in addition take account in its considerations of the importance of the work to both parties and of public art treasures. Nationally and internationally accepted principles, such as the Washington Principles and the government’s guidelines concerning the restitution of looted art, can be incorporated in the considerations in so far as they, in the Committee’s opinion, are correspondingly applicable in the specific case.

7.  ASSESSMENT OF THE DISPUTE

7.1. The Committee has ascertained that the dispute between the applicants and the Museum has not already been definitively settled. In this case, the Committee has found no evidence of legal proceedings or a legal ruling in relation to the current dispute. Nor have the applicants at any point in the past explicitly relinquished their rights to the painting. As such, the Committee considers both parties’ cases admissible.

7.2. The applicants have no family ties with the original owner Semmel and argue that they are entitled to Richard Semmel’s estate because their grandmother, Grete Gross-Eisenstädt, was appointed Semmel’s sole heir in his will.
During the procedure it was discovered that, in the 1990s, a family member of the Semmel couple tried to challenge the claims of F.F., the applicants’ mother, to Semmel’s estate. In that light, the Committee asked the applicants further questions. The applicants provided adequate answers to these questions by submitting three certificates of inheritance to the estates of Richard Semmel (dated 16 September 1997), Grete Gross-Eisenstädt (dated 1 June 1993) and F.F. (dated 13 January 2011), respectively. The Committee concludes that the applicants are currently the only parties entitled to Richard Semmel’s estate.

7.3.  As regards the issue of ownership, the Committee concludes that there is a high degree of probability that the painting The Landing Stage was owned by Richard Semmel who put it up for auction at Frederik Muller & Cie. on 21 November 1933. For this conclusion the Committee refers to:

  • the listing of the work in the 1925 auction catalogue ‘Gemälde alter Meister aus Berliner Besitz’, in which ‘R. S.’, identified as Richard Semmel, is mentioned as owner  of the work of art (see 3.4);
  • the Pantheon article from 1930 by P. Wescher on  paintings from the Semmel collection, in which the Committee finds indications that the current work is listed as a ‘Goyen’ in a passage on ‘holländischen Landschaften’ (see 3.4);
  • the catalogue of the auction on 21 November 1933 as described in 3.4, in which the work of art is included under lot number and illustration 16. While the title of this  auction catalogue refers to multiple parties (‘provenant de diverses collections privées’), the annotation ‘incl. R. Semmel from Berlin’ on an annotated version of the catalogue, combined with the provenance investigation conducted by the Committee (see below), suggests that Semmel at least put up a significant part of the works of art in this auction.

The Committee considers the following in respect of this final point. The applicants state that it can be assumed that all 71 works referred to in the auction catalogue of 21 November 1933 were owned by Semmel (see 4.2). Further to this, the Committee performed a random check in the RKD of five paintings from this catalogue that are not part of the current claim. These are works of art whose quality would lead one to believe that further provenance details will be available. During this investigation, indications were found for three of the five works of art that they were part of the Semmel collection at one time or another. For the other two paintings, no such indications were found, but neither were indications found as to who owned them. Based on this, the Committee concludes that a significant number, yet not all, of the works certainly have Semmel provenance. This, then, does not demonstrate the correctness of the applicants’ claim. Nevertheless, the results of the investigation conducted into this may provide positive support for the degree of probability of ownership by Semmel, given that other sources suggest such probability.

7.4. With regard to the nature of the loss of possession, the Committee considers the following. The investigation has shown that Semmel was persecuted at a very early stage of the Nazi regime. The applicants have argued that this had to do with Semmel’s involvement in the Deutsche Demokratische Partei, but particularly also the fact that he was a Jewish owner of a large textile plant in Berlin. The Committee considers it plausible that the Nazi authorities’ attempts to control and aryanise the textile industry made Semmel a key target and that the related pressure from the Nazi regime on Semmel himself and on his business eventually resulted in him losing his company and his capital. In the light of these complex facts, the Committee also considers it plausible that Semmel was forced to capitalise his art collection because he needed funds immediately. Semmel had to keep his business alive and support himself, his family and other dependents. The Committee therefore concludes that the sale of his paintings at the auction at Frederik Muller & Cie. in 1933, while at first sight prompted by economic factors, cannot be seen separately from Semmel's persecution by the Nazi regime in Germany. The Committee therefore concludes that this sale must be considered to have been involuntary.

7.5. Under Dutch law, it has to be assumed that the Stichting Kunstbezit en Oudheden Groninger Museum is the current owner of the painting The Landing Stage. The Museum acquired the painting in 1948 as part of a sizeable bequest from G.W. Bouman-Slingenberg (see 3.5). The Committee has found no indication whatsoever that the Museum acted without due care upon acquiring the painting. Even if the Museum had known about the pre-war provenance history, the Committee believes that an acquisition at an auction in Amsterdam in November 1933, seven years before the Germans invaded the Netherlands, would not have raised any questions.

7.6. The Committee has now come to consider the parties’ interests in having the painting returned or retaining it. In considering this, pursuant to the standards of reasonableness and fairness, the Museum’s ownership rights do not carry enough weight to decide on the dispute in favour of the Museum. The Committee has taken into account the fact that the Museum has not put forward any art-historical or other interest in retaining the painting. The Museum's circumstances and statements outlined above suggest that the Museum has repeatedly indicated that it does not specialise in 17th century art, and has little or no interest in the painting, probably because it does not fit in with its collection. This is also apparent from the fact that the painting has been in storage for a long time and has not been exhibited or given on loan for the past few decades. Moreover, the Museum acquired the painting for free and there are no indications that the Museum incurred any costs to restore the painting, have any (art-historical) investigation conducted into it or have it insured separately. All of this shows that the Museum has little interest in the painting, while the applicants have stated that they have an emotional and moral interest in having the painting returned, which the Committee therefore considers to outweigh the Museum’s interest in retaining the painting.

7.7. As the Museum acquired the painting as part of a bequest and no evidence has been found during this procedure that it has incurred any (restoration) costs, the Committee sees no reason to oblige the applicants to pay the Museum for the return of the painting.

7.8. On the basis of the above-mentioned information, the Committee issues the following binding opinion.


BINDING OPINION

The Committee advises the Museum to return the painting The Landing Stage by Maerten Fransz. van der Hulst (previously attributed to Jan Josefsz. van Goyen) to the applicants.

This binding opinion was given on 25 April 2013 by W.J.M. Davids (chair), J.Th.M. Bank, P.J.N. van Os, E.J. van Straaten, R. Herrmann, I.C. van der Vlies (vice-chair), and signed by the chair and the director.

(W.J.M. Davids, Chair)                                             (E. Campfens, Director)