In Pursuit of Provenance: a Dutch cabinet


Do you know anything more about the provenance of this Dutch cabinet? Every month the In Pursuit of Provenance blog discusses an object from the Netherlands Art Heritage Collection (NK Collection) on which in-depth provenance research is being carried out. Hopefully, this will enable more restitution requests to be honoured and allow property to be returned to its rightful owners and their heirs. This month we have an unknown cabinet. Perhaps you know more about its manufacture and origins.

Skilfully carved

A cabinet of this sort, also sometimes called a glass cabinet, is a typically Dutch item of furniture. This type of cabinet became popular in the Netherlands from the 16th century onwards. Typical of Dutch cabinets of this type are the two-door upper section and the three drawers in the lower section. The richly decorated and skilfully carved exterior, often made from costly materials, is also a common feature of cabinetry manufactured in the Netherlands between the 16th and 18th centuries. This is what makes Dutch cabinets different from similar cabinets made in Europe during the same period. These are generally considerably smaller and less richly decorated and carved than Dutch cabinets.

From the decoration and dimensions of this cabinet, listed in the inventory of the Netherlands Art Heritage Collection under number NK259, it is clear that this is a typical Dutch cabinet. The cabinet, measuring 233 centimetres high, 172 centimetres wide and 66 centimetres deep, is veneered with prized and durable burr walnut and furnished with brass fittings. The cabinet is believed to have been made in the Netherlands around 1765. The name of the cabinet maker and the location of his workshop are also unknown.

[Article continues under the photo]

Foto van een kabinetkast met gefineerd wortelnotenhout, koperbeslag, tweedeurs bovenkast, drie laden in onderkast
Unknown cabinet: veneered burr walnut, brass fittings, two-door upper cabinet, three drawers in lower section, 1765. Inventory number NK259, 233 cm x 172 cm x 66 cm.

Hunting for clues

Despite the cabinet’s striking appearance, it is difficult to identify it with any certainty in historical sources. Too little is known about the manufacturing technique and art history of NK259 to serve as a starting point for provenance research. Owing to the insufficient number of leads for source research, the cabinet was subjected to a thorough physical examination. The cabinet and all the drawers were inspected and photographed from all sides at the Netherlands’ Collection Centre in Amersfoort. There we looked for unique clues about the provenance of the cabinet, such as labels, numbers or owners’ stamps. Such marks then serve as a feature which can identify a cabinet as a unique object after all, rather than an object that has been mass produced and is therefore not unique.

At the bottom of this cabinet we found a label from the Otto Greiner auction in Stuttgart. Otto Greiner, who should not be confused with the German painter and graphic artist active between 1869 and 1916 in Leipzig and Munich, ran an art dealership and auction house in the German city of Stuttgart from 1930. Until 1932 he worked with his business partner Paul Hartmann, although for unclear reasons the partnership presumably ended in 1932. Otto Greiner organised several auctions of seized Jewish property on behalf of the Gestapo, the secret police of the Nazi regime. Other than that, currently we do not know much about Otto Greiner and his activities during the period from 1933 to 1945.

Can you help us?

Do you know who is or was the owner of this cabinet? And do you know anything more about the auction house or dealership of Otto Greiner from Stuttgart and, in particular, his war history? If so, please contact us via

This blog was written by David Bos, provenance researcher at the RCE.