THE MATERNITY VISIT AND THE DOCTOR’S VISIT BY CORNELIS TROOST AND STILL LIFE WITH IRIS, PEONIES AND OTHER FLOWERS IN A VASE BY HERMAN VAN DER MIJN
In 2003, the State Secretary asked the Restitutions Committee for advice on an application by G.’s heirs for restitution of the paintings The maternity visit and The doctor’s visit by Cornelis Troost. These paintings were included in the Dutch National Art Collection under inventory numbers NK 1434 and NK 1435.
During the investigation of the facts commissioned by the Restitutions Committee regarding the Troost paintings that were the subject of the claim, it emerged that there was a third painting in the Dutch National Art Collection that had belonged to the same owner: Still life with iris, peonies and other flowers in a vase by Herman van der Mijn, registered under number NK 1672, for which the applicants submitted an additional restitution application.
The original owner of the three works of art was G., a wealthy German businessman and art collector of Jewish origin. To escape the Nazi regime, G. decided in 1935 to emigrate. In order to be able to leave Germany with his family, he required an Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung from the Finanzamt. To obtain that document, the G. family had to meet the stringent tax obligations that the German Reich had imposed on Jewish citizens, including the Reichsfluchtsteuer and the Judenvermögensabgabe. In total, the G. Family was charged a total of RM 914,000 in taxes. In order to meet these substantial tax obligations, G. was forced to sell his home in Berlin, including the household effects and his art collection. On 19 August 1936, G. presented a large number of works of art for auction in Berlin, including the aforementioned paintings by Troost and Van der Mijn. The final settlement of the payments to the German Reich took so much time that it had not yet been completed when G. died in 1939, before he was able to emigrate. In 1940, his widow left Germany and settled in the United Kingdom.
Before the Second World War broke out in the Netherlands on 10 May 1940, the two paintings by Troost came into the possession of the Amsterdam Jewish art gallery I. Rosenbaum NV. In April 1942, a Verwalter was appointed to take over that gallery at the instructions of the occupying forces. In the same month, part of the gallery’s trading stock, including the two paintings by Troost, was sold to Dienststelle Mühlmann, which was one of the principal purchasers of art for Nazi Germany on the Dutch market during the war.
The painting by Van der Mijn was purchased at the Berlin auction in 1936 by an Amsterdam art dealer. The work then turned up at the Jewish art gallery Katz in Dieren, which most probably held the painting on consignment for a private person. In July 1942, Katz sold the painting to a German buyer for the collection of the newFührermuseum that was to be founded in Linz.
Discussion of the advice
This case involved a series of separate instances of (possibly involuntary) loss of possession, which suggested that conflicting claims regarding the paintings might be possible. The Restitutions Committee therefore adopted the following approach.
Firstly, the Committee formed an opinion on the sale of the works by G., and concluded in that regard that the sales were involuntary. This was based on the recommendation of the Ekkart Committee that sales of works of art by private Jewish parties in Germany from 1933 onward be regarded as sales under duress, unless the opposite is explicitly shown.1
Since both the paintings by Troost and the work by Van der Mijn subsequently came into the possession of Dutch Jewish art dealers and were purchased by Nazi buyers, the Committee then considered whether the legal successors of those art dealers had to be offered the opportunity to submit claims as well because those sales might also have taken place under duress. It should be borne in mind in this connection that the Final Recommendations of the Ekkart Committee, setting out policy lines for such conflicting claims, had not been published at that time. Consequently, the Restitutions Committee decided to ask the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science2 to notify the legal successor of the Rosenbaum gallery, but that legal successor finally announced that they would not submit a claim because of G.’s prior claims. When the Ekkart Final Recommendations were published, toward the end of December 2004, and they were subsequently adopted by the government, it became apparent that official policy also generally gave priority to the first loss of ownership in the event of conflicting claims. The Restitutions Committee has sufficient latitude in this regard to compare the weight of the various competing claims.3 In light of this policy, and based on the outcome of the Committee’s further research, the Restitutions Committee decided that the involuntary loss of ownership on the part of the G. family in 1936 prevailed over the possible involuntary loss of ownership by parties involved at later stages.
Therefore, the Restitutions Committee advised the State Secretary on 7 February 2005 to return the paintings by Troost and the still life by Van der Mijn to G.’s heirs. No conditions were attached as regards the repayment of any sales revenues received at the auction, as those funds were used to leave Germany. The State Secretary’s final decision on 22 April 2005 followed the advice of the Restitutions Committee.
1 See the third Recommendation regarding private art property.
2 The Committee did not believe it to be part of its task to contact potential applicants directly,which is why this was left to the Ministry.
3 See the notes to the second Final Recommendation.