Restitutions :

Restitution of a small ivory diptych to the heirs of the Cologne businessman Ottmar Strauss 7 March 2017

An ivory diptych with scenes from the life of Christ was restituted by the Free State of Bavaria from the collection of the Bavarian National Museum, Munich, to the heirs of the former owner Ottmar Strauss on 7 March 2017. The diptych consists of two carved ivory panels bound together with hinges. They probably originate from Paris or North France but their date is not yet known.

The Bavarian National Museum researched the provenance of the diptych on its own initiative and informed the lawyers representing the heirs of Ottmar Strauss accordingly.

“The restitution of the ivory diptych by the Bavarian National Museum to the heirs of Ottmar Strauss is proof to me that our public collections and museums are conducting intensive provenance research in order to detect art works which were illegally seized during the Nazi-dictatorship and to remedy the injustices of the Nazi-regime. Our public collections and museums are continuously publishing the results of their provenance research thereby enabling restitutions. We will continue with our efforts to enable restitution of assets and art works lost due to racial persecution or to find just solutions,” stressed Bavaria’s Culture Minister, Dr. Ludwig Spaenle.

Ottmar Strauss (1878-1941) was a wealthy businessman from Cologne whose large and precious collection of antiques and art works mainly consisted of medieval religious art. He and his family were persecuted by the Nazis soon after 30 January 1933. Already on 1 May 1933 Ottmar Strauss was forced to leave the Otto Wolff iron company he had co-founded. After longer stays abroad, he decided in 1936 to turn his back on Germany once and for all. On 27 August 1941 he passed away.

In preparation of his emigration and in order to pay the required Reichsfluchtsteuer (exit tax) and other discriminatory taxes, Strauss was forced to part with his art collection at the end of 1936. In addition to sales in three auctions carried out in 1934 and 1935, he also sold some of the art works directly to other collectors. The diptych was part of these latter sales, and shows scenes of the birth, adoration, crucifixion and entombment  of Christ. The buyer was probably Fritz Thyssen since it was in his possession when his property was confiscated in favor of the Prussian State in September 1939. The diptych first went to the Folkwang Museum in Essen and was then restituted after the war to Thyssen, together with other art works. The diptych was acquired by the Bavarian National Museum in 1990.

To read the Bavarian National Museum's press release, click here.