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A Goudstikker van Goyen in Gdańsk: A Case Study of Nazi-Looted Art in Poland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 June 2020

Patricia Kennedy Grimsted*
Affiliation:
Ukrainian Research Institute and Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States; Email: grimsted@fas.harvard.edu.

Abstract:

This article traces the provenance and migration of a painting by Jan van Goyen (1595–1656), River Landscape with a Swineherd, from the Jacques Goudstikker Collection and now in Gdańsk Muzeum Narodowe. After the “red-flag sale” of the Goudstikker Collection in July 1940 to German banker Alois Miedl, and then to Hermann Göring, this painting—after its sale on Berlin’s Lange Auction in December 1940 to Hitler’s agent Almas-Dietrich—was returned to Miedl-Goudstikker in Amsterdam. Miedl then sold it (with two other Dutch paintings) to the Nazi Gauleiter of Danzig, Albert Forster, among many wartime Dutch acquisitions for the Municipal Museum (Stadtmuseum). Evacuated to Thuringia and captured by a Soviet trophy brigade, it thus avoided postwar Dutch claims. Returned to Poland from the Hermitage in 1956, it was exhibited in the Netherlands and the United States (despite its Goudstikker label). Tracing its wartime and postwar odyssey highlights the transparent provenance research needed for Nazi-era acquisitions, especially in former National Socialist (NS) Germanized museums in countries such as Poland, where viable claims procedures for Holocaust victims and heirs are still lacking. This example of many “missing” Dutch paintings sold to NS-era German museums in cities that became part of postwar Poland, raises several important issues deserving attention in provenance research for still-displaced Nazi-looted art.

Type
Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the International Cultural Property Society

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Footnotes

Acknowledgements: I am very grateful to Kamil Zeidler, professor at the Faculty of Law, Gdańsk University, his father Mirosław Zeidler, and retired Professor Marian Turek, for arranging my visit to Gdańsk and advising me regarding the Polish legal context; to director Wojciech Bronisławski of Muzeum Narodowe and staff for their warm reception; and especially to the curator Beata Purc-Stępniak for the documentation and images provided. In the Netherlands, I am particularly grateful to Perry Schrier, who heads the BHG in The Hague, together with provenance research associate, Annelies Kool, for assisting with Dutch sources (since 2019 part of the Expertisecentrum Restitutie [Expertise Centre Restitution] under the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, in Amsterdam). At Harvard University Fine Arts Library, I owe much appreciation to András Riedlmayer and colleagues for helping me track down documentation including images. Wesley A. Fisher, research director of the Claims Conference, read several versions of the text and kindly advised regarding the historical context of displaced art from World War II; I am further grateful to the Claims Conference for assistance with some of my travel, research, and editorial expenses. Lynn Nicholas reviewed my article in the broader context of looted art as part of the Rape of Europa her book so well described, and advised regarding the painting from the Nathan Katz collection in the same sale to Danzig.

References

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