Heir to Nazi-looted art donates painting to the Netherlands

1945 6 March 2007

The U.S. heir to a major art collection looted by the Nazis has donated a painting to the Dutch government in gratitude to the commissioner who advocated the paintings be returned.

Marei von Saher also sold four paintings to the Dutch government for $4 million.

Von Saher, the daughter-in-law of Jacques Goudstikker, the Netherland's biggest art dealer in the 1930s, received 200 paintings earlier this year, estimated to be worth between $79 million and $110 million US.

Goudstikker fled the Netherlands at the start of the Second World War and died after falling through a trapdoor on an outbound ship.

The Nazis seized 800 works from his collection and about 200, mostly by Dutch masters, were returned to the Netherlands after the war.

Rudi Ekkart, a Dutch professor who headed an independent commission on Nazi-era claims, had pressed the Dutch government to return the works to von Saher, who lives in Connecticut.

On Tuesday, von Saher announced she had sold Dirck van Delen's 1633 Architectural Fantasy with Figures, two 1625 portraits by Utrecht artist Paulus Moreelse and Daniel Vosmaer's 1665 View of Delft for $4 million US to the Dutch government.

But she also wanted to express her gratitude to Ekkart for his role in recovering the works and donated Bartholomeus Van der Helst's 1645 Child on Deathbed to the Dutch state.

"During our discussions with the Dutch state, I learned that the painting by van der Helst was one of … Rudi Ekkart's favourite pieces," von Saher said in a statement.

"I decided that it would be a fitting gesture to donate it … in his honour, as Prof. Ekkart has devoted himself to helping so many families who lost property during the war."

Began action in 1996

Von Saher began actions to recover the works, which were in museums throughout the Netherlands, in 1996, and endured a long battle in the courts, which initially ruled that the Dutch government had reached a settlement with Goudstikker's widow in 1952.

However, in the late 1990s the Ekkart commission recommended that the government return the works.

The Goudstikker collection contains works by Rembrandt, Salomon van Ruysdael, Jan van der Heyden and Jan Steen.

Von Saher plans to sell half the collection at auction over the next few months to raise money to cover legal fees, store the works and help recover the rest of the Goudstikker collection.
Among the paintings von Saher is trying to recover is one now in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts — The Deification of Aeneas, by French artist Charles Le Brun.

Christie's auction house will offer works from the collection at three sales: April 19 in New York, July 5 in London, and in November in Amsterdam. The paintings could fetch from $22 million to $35 million US.
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