Some of the disputed plates. Photo: Dutch Restitution Commission
The ministry has decided to act on the advice of the Restitution Commission which found that the 14 pieces in question were sold off by Gutmann under duress from the Nazis in 1934.
Two other Dutch museums, the Rijksmuseum and the Zuiderzeemuseum, also have plates from the tableware set which consisted of over 435 pieces in total. It depicts VOC-related scenes of towns and villages and was a present from the company to stadholder Willem V (1748-1806). All the objects are part of the Dutch national art collection and are the property of the Dutch state.
The Gutmann family had asked the ministry for the return of the pieces in 2015 when art detective Arthur Brand traced the origin of the tableware. Although the pieces were acquired legitimately, the ministry agreed that Gutmann had been forced to part with the objects through circumstances directly related to the anti-Jewish policy of the German Nazi regime. They are therefore considered Nazi loot and must be returned.
Some of the tableware was bought by former queen Juliana in the 1970s and included in the palace museum collection. The sauce boats were bought by Het Loo from art dealers Bernhard Stodel in Amsterdam in 1975.
‘The two sauceboats in particular are unique because they are in such a good condition,’ Het Loo spokeswoman Laura Brown told the AD. ‘These pieces are now in storage and there is a possibility they will remain in Apeldoorn.
The heirs have not decided yet what they will do and some have said they would prefer the pieces to stay at a museum where they are safe.