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 and his gallery was looted. In 2006, the Dutch government 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,” Von Saher’s lawyers, Herrick, Feinstein LLP in New York, said in a statement. “The settlement resolves the dispute without separating the painting’s two parts.”
Goering, Hitler’s right-hand man in the Nazi party, looted the gallery weeks after Goudstikker fled Amsterdam and used the booty to decorate his opulent country estate outside Berlin.
After World War II and the liberation of Nazi-occupied Netherlands, the Allies handed recovered works back to the Dutch government for restitution to the original owners. Those not returned immediately after the war became part of the national collection.
Art historians in The Hague noticed that 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 fragments belonged to the same painting. The museum says that the pieces that have been reconciled are probably still only the center of a much larger painting.
Though the Dutch government agreed to return its part of “The Wedding Night of Tobias and Sarah” in 2006, the prior joining of the two separated fragments led to a dispute over who should get the complete painting. The two parties began negotiating a settlement more than two years ago.
Marjolein de Jong, deputy mayor in charge of culture in The Hague, wrote in a statement sent by e-mail that the agreed price is lower than Von Saher’s initial demands for 1.8 million euros and said the accord “helps preserve the painting for The Hague and future generations.”
The Dutch government and Mondriaan Foundation will contribute 400,000 euros toward the settlement, according to Esther Andoetoe, a spokeswoman for The Hague. The Rembrandt Association will pay 200,000 euros. The cultural budget of The Hague will fund 92,000 euros and 308,000 euros comes from insurance money for the loss of two other paintings, she said.
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 pieces by Salomon van Ruysdael, Filippo Lippi and others by Steen. She also has recovered more than 30 works from museums in other countries, including Germany and Israel.
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