A Painting Looted at Least Once,From Hitler, Is on the Block

Some experts believe this 17th-century work now up for sale was originally stolen by the Nazis, but no clues to its prewar owner have turned up in years of searching.

Frans Francken the Younger, Sermon on the Mount.
© Walter Bayer / NEUMEISTER Münchener Kunstauktionshaus GmbH & Co. KG.

September 4, 2023, by Catherine Hickley — Excerpt

“It has become a familiar scenario in the art world: the heirs of a Jewish collector spot a painting in an auction catalog that was stolen from their relative in the Nazi era. They contact the auction house and, if all goes well, reach a settlement with the seller that ensures they receive a share of the revenue from the sale.”

“But what happens when the rightful heirs to art probably looted by the Nazis cannot be identified, let alone located? A work by the Antwerp painter Frans Francken the Younger that the Munich auction house Neumeister is offering on Sept. 21 raises exactly that question.”

“Provenance research, which tracks the ownership history of artworks, has developed apace over the past 20 years as online databases have proliferated, access to archives has improved and the number of scholars engaged in the field has grown. Restitutions of Nazi-looted art by museums have become routine. Companies such as Mondex Corporation have made a business out of tracing the heirs of looted art and offering to recover works in return for a share of the value.”

Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland, 1895. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

“In the case of “Sermon on the Mount,” the painting is known to have been purchased by Hildebrand Gurlitt in occupied France in 1943, via a middleman with whom he frequently did business. The identity of the seller is unknown.”

“But this painting did not end up in a Gurlitt home. It was instead selected as being worthy of display in the Führermuseum that Hitler hoped to build in Linz, Austria.”

“Provenance research can be expensive, with no guaranteed results. Few private art owners have the resources to pursue it indefinitely.”

This is an excerpt from this New York Times article. Full article through this link: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/04/arts/design/a-painting-looted-at-least-once-from-hitler-is-on-the-block.html?searchResultPosition=14