Heirs sell collections stolen by Nazis

The Jerusalem Post 2 March 2003
Meir Ronnen

More and more art and artifacts that changed hands after being stolen by the Nazis are coming on the market as heirs of Jewish estates receive works released by various European state museums, often after decades of litigation. Following a belated act of restitution made last year by the Dutch government, Christie's is offering property from the Gutmann Collection in Amsterdam and London this season. The single-owner sale of more than 90 lots of European furniture, works of art, Old Master and 19th century paintings, European and Asian ceramics, glass and antiquities will be offered at Christie's Amsterdam on May 13.

On June 11 three magnificent Renaissance silver-gilt works of art from the Collection of Fritz and Eugen Gutmann will be offered at Christie's London. All three pieces were on display in the Rijksmuseum between 1954-2002. They will be on view at Christie's Amsterdam between May 9-12.

The highlight of the group is a quite magnificent German silver-gilt ewer, mark of Johannes Lencker I, 1625-1630, one of the greatest of Augsburg pieces, from a time when the city's silver was undoubtedly the finest in Europe. The ewer is in the elaborate form of a nude seated on a rearing triton blowing a conch shell ( 500,000- 800,000/ $800,000-$1,200,000).

Both Johannes (circa 1570-1637) and his brother, Christophe Lencker (circa 1556-1613) , were among the city's leading silversmiths, and many of Johannes' extant works are preserved in major institutions including the Munich Schatzkammer; the Schatzkammer of the Archbishop of Salzburg; and the Kremlin.

A Kienlin parcel-gilt cup, formed as nude male on a rearing, galloping horse, is signed and dated 1630 ( 350,000- 450,000/$550,000-$720,000). Hans Ludwig Kienle or Kienlin the Elder (1591-1653) was a distinguished silversmith in Ulm and particularly adept with animals. In 1912, the distinguished art historian, Otto von Falke, wrote in The Art Collection of Eugen Gutmann that the ewer by Johannes Lencker and the cup by the Ulm maker, Hans Ludwig Kienle (now written as Kienlin) "demonstrate the style of the High Renaissance at its highest perfection. Both pieces are sublime works of both the sculptor's and the goldsmith's art."

The third superb work is a German silver-gilt double-cup by Hans Petzolt, one of the greatest Nuremberg smiths at the end of the 16th century. Dated 1596, the double-cup is a perfect example of the short-lived return to the Gothic style of a century earlier. Made for the Usler family of Goslar, the double cup eventually became part of the collection of Baron Karl von Rothschild of Frankfurt before being acquired by Eugen Gutmann and subsequently passed on to Fritz Gutmann ( 150,000- 200,000/ $220,000-$380,000).

The Old Master pictures in the Gutmann May sale in Amsterdam are led by Portrait of a Man a figure wearing a fur trimmed coat and painted against a deep red background by Jacob Elsner (active late 15th and early 16th century) ( 80,000-120,000).

Several lots of furniture and decorative objects include a pair of early Louis XVI ormolu and variegated red marble vases ( 30,000-50,000); a Dutch ormolu-mounted kingwood, amaranth and parquetry commode circa 1780 ( 20,000-30,000) and a Louis XVI amaranth bois satin and marquetry table en chiffoniere by Charles Topine ( 20.000-30.000).

Highlights from the European works of art section include a late 16th century North Italian bronze doorknocker (Eu15,000-20,000) and an impressive Flemish game-park tapestry is from the second half of the 16th century (Eu40,000-60,000).

The European glass and ceramics collection comprises many pieces of Meissen porcelain including a 'Punktzeit' part dinner service, circa 1770 (Eu 15,000-20,000). The service is decorated with minutely observed flowers and purple-green flower sprays. A pair of Kakiemon octagonal sake bottles, dating from circa 1730, with slender necks and decorated with autumn grass and chrysanthemums will also be offered (Eu 4,000-6,000). A pair of square Samson tea caddies and covers made in France in the 19th century are each painted in 'Kakiemon-style' with birds among the blossoming branches (Eu 2,000-3,000).
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