Nazi-looted Dutch Golden Age painting returned to Goudstikker heir

The Art Newspaper 27 December 2023
By Gareth Harris

Latest restitution of work by Cornelis van Haarlem is part of years-long campaign to reunite works with family of Dutch-Jewish dealer

Adam and Eve, attributed to the Dutch 16th-century artist Cornelis van Haarlem.

A painting looted by the Nazis during World War II from the collection of Jacques Goudstikker, a prominent Dutch-Jewish art dealer, has been returned to Marei von Saher, the daughter-in-law and sole heiress of Goudstikker. The recovered painting, Adam and Eve, attributed to the Dutch 16th-century artist Cornelis van Haarlem, was recently offered for donation to Musée Rolin in Autun, central France.

“During the evaluation process of the painting [at the museum], a Goudstikker label found on the back of the painting raised suspicions about its provenance. Upon further inspection, it was discovered that Adam and Eve is one of more than 1,300 paintings that had been looted from Goudstikker’s collection,” says a statement from the art law firm Kaye Spiegler, which helped Goudstikker’s family recover the work.

The donors were unaware of the painting’s history and, with the assistance of the museum were put in contact with Von Saher to notify her of the discovery. “It’s critical that museums across the globe adopt strict provenance protocols to aid in the continued search for remaining Nazi-looted artworks,” adds Amelia Keuning, a member of Von Saher’s legal team, in a statement.

But other restitution attempts by the Goudstikker family have been unsuccessful. In 2019 the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a ruling allowing the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, to retain possession of two masterpieces by Lucas Cranach the Elder that were looted by the Nazis. Marei von Saher waged a long court battle for the return of both paintings which the museum was subsequently allowed to keep.

Around 1,100 works looted from Goudstikker were acquired by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler’s second-in-command. Some of the looted works were returned to the Dutch government, which restituted 200 paintings stolen by Göring to the family in 2006. But the Goudstikker Art Research Project is still seeking more than 800 missing works stolen by Göring and transported to Germany.

Last year the German city of Trier restituted an early 17th-century Dutch painting—a 1610 oil-on-wood painting by Adam van Breen, called Ice Skating—to Von Saher. The collector Martin Schunck bought the painting—probably at auction—two months after it was stolen. He bequeathed it to the city of Trier in 1987.
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