Provenance research cultural goods 1933-1945
Provenance research is done to establish as fully as possible the origins of art objects in the period 1933-1945.
Looting of art objects by the Nazi regime
The Nazi regime looted art objects on a large scale during the Second World War, mostly from Jewish owners. Thousands of other art objects were sold under duress or for too little. Jews were already being persecuted in Germany from as early as 1933 and in Austria from 1938. Works of art with such a history may have ended up in Dutch museums or in the NK Collection (Netherlands Art Property Collection). Such objects may also have been acquired by Dutch museums by various convoluted routes after the war. Doing provenance research on objects in its own collection, or for possible new acquisitions, is very important for this reason, so that the restoration of rights can still take place.
Results of (previous) investigations
Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) is resuming its structural research into the provenance of objects in the Netherlands Art Property Collection (NK Collection). In doing so, the Agency is continuing the work previously conducted by the former Origins Unknown Agency. The research has now been extended to include a new research period (1933-1940).
All the results can be found at wo2.collectienederland.nl. There you will find information about the NK objects, their provenance and restitution status. The information will be further updated and expanded upon over the coming years.
Origins Unknown Agency
The 1990s saw renewed interest in post-war legal reparations. Between 1998 and 2004 the Origins Unknown Agency (Bureau Herkomst Gezocht, BHG) started investigating the provenance of objects in the NK Collection. The findings from that study have been published on: wo2.collectienederland.nl. That website also lists works of art that have been reported as missing but have never been found again by the Netherlands Art Property Foundation (Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit, SNK).
Museum Provenance Investigation
Not all works that were looted before or during the Second World War in the Netherlands are part of the NK collection. This applies, for example, to works that were purchased many years after the war.
Led by the Museum Association, Dutch museums have carried out research into the provenance of art works in their collections; Museum Acquisitions 1940-1948 (Dutch website) en Museum Acquisitions since 1933 (English version available).
During this study, in which 163 museums in total took part, an inventory was taken of 173 objects where it was suspected that they had been looted, confiscated or forcibly sold between 1933 and 1945. The project formally ended on 31 December 2018. The results were handed over to the Cultural Heritage Agency in 2023.
A short film illustrates how the research was carried out in practice, using a painting from the Paleis Het Loo collection.
Museum Provenance Investigation
In July 2009 we addressed the museums and
other institutions, very widely, saying:
There is a committee, and the director of the
museum association and the chairman of the committee
invite you to participate in this research.
We started a little later,
but also analyzed our collection.
And that's where that painting came forward,
which is former Jewish property.
It is of course a nice picture with that
19th century frame and that 19th-century painting.
And here comes the equerry,
with a horse.
And is it the same horse as this?
That could just be possible.
Subsequently, the provenance history
of this painting was examined.
It was once bought at auction, in 1980.
So I understand correctly that in 1946
a missing object was reported.
And since then no records are known,
until it came up for auction in 1980.
Quite a few letters came in
at the Netherlands Art Property Foundation.
Like 'I lost this or that' or
'my mother told me this and that, such and such'.
Those letters were processed at some point,
but the criteria were very strict.
Of course you had to recognize it,
but you needed evidence as well.
So, that caused a lot of irritation after the war.
Letters saying 'how can you ask of us,
that if there is a banging on the door!
that we will then quickly collect our purchase notes,
because we might want to get back our painting later on.'
No, there was a lot of dissatisfaction.
Montpezat, Montpassant, surely they are same.
William II on horseback
A 1942 regulation stated that Jews
had to hand in their valuables.
It was the second ordinance.
And they had to hand in those valuables
at the Liro bank, the German robbery bank.
Yes, there it is.
15 A, that's right.
William II on horseback, Montpassant
Sold to Lemperts
Lemperts in Cologne.
So when it was on the Liro list,
its complicated provenance history was obvious,
which had to be carefully sorted out.
A bell rang.
And then we asked Sophie Olie,
to specifically start to work on this object,
with this painting.
At the RKD I did two things:
I searched for visual documentation of Montpezat.
Look, here he is.
And I searched for Fraenkel.
And that's how I found out
that he was also a court photographer.
And I suspect he might have been fascinated
by the Dutch Royal House,
and came across that painting once.
Because he owned several paintings.
And then thought, 'well,
that is actually a nice picture.
I'm a court photographer now
and that painting fits well on my wall.
But every catch raises many more questions.
So it's a continuing history.
And for this painting Sophie
also went to the City Archives.
This is him.
There he is.
Died January 11, 1943, in Amsterdam.
Professional photographer, that's right.
Now I'm afraid there's some bad news too.
The relocation to Germany in 1943.
And this note is probably from the Red Cross,
regarding his death in a camp.
And when I have this quick view,
this is a deed drawn up after the war.
And that's right, it's 1955,
in which the inheritance is redistributed.
In the war, most of Fraenkels relatives
will likely have been killed.
After the war an inventory is made of those still alive
in the family, or from distant relatives,
and are entitled to a portion of that inheritance.
He was married to Jaantje Simon de Jong.
Died in Sobibor April 16, 1943.
That is 4 months after her husband's death.
And she left everything to her son David.
But David died on June 16, 1943 in Sobibor.
Married to Aleida Fuldauer,
also died 16 June 1943 in Sobibor.
All died in Sobibor.
So they were very young.
Yes, so this is the Fraenkel family, this is Aleida.
And David Fraenkel, who made and edited all the films.
Here you can see the whole family.
It's crazy of course, it is
shocking to realize,
that so many of that family have been
taken away and killed.
So that part of the legacy ended up with us,
in this case now with me.
Because my grandfather was not a Fraenkel at all.
My grandfather was also killed, or murdered, in the war.
So that went through his wife.
And again, there are so many steps.
And what we're going to do now is to see
if we can get in touch with any heirs, if any.
And discuss with them:
what are we going to do with it.
Of course we hope that the painting
can remain in our collection.
But again, if it turns out that there are
reasonable grounds to give it back to the family,
then we will do so without any hesitation.
But of course Iâ€™m not particularly waiting for it.
Yes, if there is a Van Gogh, a sunflower painting
popping up, then of course we will be very happy.
I am mainly concerned with the emotional part,
the personal history, the family history in fact.
To know more about that.
But at the same time you also notice that
those family members, that they like it very much,
to hear from us what we have found.
Because of course they don't find it.
And the museums will continue with the provenance research,
we certainly hope so, when this has been completed.
That they are aware that they also have to
properly document the backgrounds of their objects.
So it's never ready.
But no museum will deny that.