Germany has announced that another Nazi-looted painting will be restituted to the heirs of Jewish dealer Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940). Astonishingly, the Goudstikker Art Research Project is still seeking 836 missing artworks.
Painted in 1610, Ice Skating by Adam van Breen (1585-1642) has hung in a museum in Trier since 1987. It was bequeathed to the German city by the collector Martin Schunck (1900-1987), who purchased the oil-on-wood painting from Hermann Göring (1893-1946), one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler’s (1889-1945) second-in-command.
The identity of the owner before Göring remained a mystery until a provenance researcher discovered van Breen’s work listed on lostart.de, a database of Nazi-looted art. The provenance was traced back to Goudstikker, an influential Jewish art dealer who had been based in Amsterdam between the First and Second World Wars.
In 1940, Goudstikker’s impressive gallery was plundered by the Nazis. He fled persecution by boat to England but perished in an accident on board. Stadtmuseum Simeonstift in Trier contacted the lawyer representing Goudstikker’s heir, Marei von Saher.
“For us this was a matter of course once we discovered the history,” said Elisabeth Dühr, the museum’s director. “We feel bound by the Washington Principles. The city council voted unanimously to restitute the work.”
Released in 1998, the Washington Principles included eleven non-binding statements that assist in resolving issues relating to Nazi-confiscated art. Germany has been increasingly dedicated to this cause following the Gurlitt case in 2013, which involved the confiscation of nearly 2,000 artworks owned by Cornelius Gurlitt (1932-2014), the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt (1895-1956), a Third Reich dealer of Nazi-looted art. In 2016, German officials voted to reform Jutta Limbach’s Commission, which advises on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution.
“There has been a change of attitude in Germany since the Gurlitt case,” explained Ewald Volhard, the Goudstikker family lawyer. “People are checking their own works. And we frequently receive tips from art historians about potential Goudstikker works in auction house catalogues and museums.”
The Goudstikker family will continue their lengthy search for the missing 836 paintings. The biggest restitution to-date for Goudstikker’s descendants came in 2006, when 200 paintings were returned by the Dutch government. Several other paintings from the collection were also recovered in recent months, including a painting of roses by Philippe Rousseau (1816-1887).