Return of Looted Portrait

New York Times 13 January 2011
By Carol Vogel

On Friday the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., is handing over an early-16th-century portrait by the German artist Hans Baldung Grien to Simon Goodman, a grandson of two collectors and Holocaust victims, Friedrich and Louise Gutmann. (Mr. Gutmann, known as Fritz, was a distinguished collector and a member of the Dresdner banking family.) Mr. Goodman and his family had been looking for the painting for years. It and dozens more artworks and objects were looted by the Nazis.

Twelve days after Mr. Goodman takes possession of the painting he plans to sell it at a Christie’s New York auction on Jan. 26. It is expected to fetch $200,000 to $300,000.

“We don’t part with a rare portrait like this easily, but it feels good to do the right thing,” said Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli.

Mr. Goodman, who is accepting the painting on behalf of his brother, Nick, and his aunt, Lili Gutmann, said that an auction was the only way to satisfy all the heirs. “We’re not the wealthy family we were before the war,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s complicated.”

The family has been looking for this portrait since 1946, but only last year did Mr. Goodman successfully trace its whereabouts after finding a copy of the 1983 catalogue raisonné of the artist by a German art historian, Gert von der Osten.

Rutgers has owned the portrait since 1959, when it was donated by Rudolf Heinemann, an international art dealer and collector who died in 1975.

The return of the painting is yet another happy restitution claim for the family, which over the years has had many other art objects — paintings, tapestries, silver and more — either returned to them or become the subject of settlements. The family has been a leader in changing policies on the restitution of looted art. In 1998 a case involving a Degas landscape from the Gutmann collection helped prompt a conference involving 44 nations to adopt principles for resolving issues of Nazi-confiscated art.

“This is a very happy occasion and the university and Zimmerli have been exceptional,” Mr. Goodman said.
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