Heir Awarded $1.43 Million by Hague for Goering-Looted Part of Old Master

Bloomberg 15 August 2011
By Catherine Hickley

The Hague city government agreed to pay 1 million euros ($1.43 million) to the heir of a Jewish art dealer whose gallery was looted by Hermann Goering for part of a Jan Steen painting that was in fragments until 1996.

Jacques Goudstikker left about 1,400 artworks in his gallery when he escaped Amsterdam in 1940 on a cargo boat with his wife and baby son. He died during the crossing. Goering, Hitler’s right-hand man in the Nazi party, looted the gallery weeks later. After World War II, the allies handed recovered works to the Dutch government. In 2006, the Dutch returned 202 works from the national collection to Goudstikker’s sole heir, his daughter-in-law Marei von Saher.

The Steen painting, “The Wedding Night of Tobias and Sarah,” now hangs in the Bredius Museum in The Hague. Before Goudstikker acquired the left side of the painting, it had been split into segments. The smaller right side, which depicted the Archangel Raphael, was owned by The Hague. The two fragments were reunited by restorers in 1996.

“Both parties had agreed that they did not want to see the painting divided again,” said a statement from Von Saher’s lawyers, Herrick, Feinstein LLP in New York. “The settlement resolves the dispute without separating the painting’s two parts.”

On the left side of the painting, which belonged to Goudstikker, the tips of the archangel’s wings are visible in the top right corner. This proved that the two sections were fragments of the same painting. The museum says that the pieces of the painting that have been reconciled are probably still only the center of a much larger work.

Steen was born in the Dutch city of Leiden in 1625. He painted Bible subjects, landscapes and portraits and left about 800 paintings.

Artworks returned to Von Saher from Dutch museums include works by Salomon van Ruysdael, Filippo Lippi and others by Steen. She also has recovered more than 30 artworks from museums in other countries, including Germany and Israel.
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