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News release

Government of The Netherlands returns Brueghel work to Max Stern Estate

Nazi-looted painting recovered from Noordbrabants Museum

MONTREAL, 17 November, 2010 -- Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, acting on behalf of the executors of the Estate of Dr. Max Stern and its three university beneficiaries (Concordia, McGill University/Montreal, Hebrew University/Jerusalem) announces the restitution of another Old Master painting belonging to the Jewish art dealer’s collection. “Allegory of Earth and Water,” by Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-1678), was discovered to have been looted by the Nazis in the period surrounding World War Two. 

“We are immensely grateful to the Dutch government for supporting us in our efforts to return the Brueghel to its rightful place,” says Judith Woodsworth, President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia University.

“While this Brueghel is the eighth painting to be delivered back to the university heirs of Dr. Stern, it is the first one returned to the Estate by a European government body. It is our hope that we will be able to recover many of the hundreds of works that were looted from the collection of Dr. Stern—notably those currently hanging in other European museums,” adds Dr. Woodsworth.

 Brueghel’s “Allegory of Earth and Water” will be placed on exhibition next month at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

In 2005, the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Banking Department discovered that the Brueghel was listed in the database of The Netherlands government’s Origins Unknown Agency - which investigates the ownership history of paintings held in the Dutch national collection. The HCPO submitted a claim to The Netherlands’ Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, which referred it to the country’s Restitutions Committee.

 The Committee’s fact-finding investigation revealed that after the painting had been removed from Dr. Stern’s possession in the 1930s, it surfaced a short while later with Jan Dik Jr., a Dutch art dealer who acted as a middleman for the Nazis. From Dik, the painting went to the Hamburg Kunsthalle museum. The Allies recovered the Brueghel and transferred custody of the painting to The Netherlands. The painting was most recently on display at the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch. 

The Restitutions Committee concluded that Dr. Stern had lost the painting as a direct consequence of Nazi persecution and it advised the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to return the work to his estate. The committee noted that even in the possibility that the painting might have been sold to fund the flight of Dr. Stern’s mother from Nazi-era Germany, it would have been done so under duress.

The return of the Brueghel painting follows the 2009 restitution of another painting that was lost to Dr. Stern. United States federal court judgments ordered the return of Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s “Girl from the Sabine Mountains” after it was found in the personal collection of a German baroness. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has since recovered several works from the Stern collection.

The Max Stern Art Restitution Project is spearheaded by Concordia through the office of Dr. Clarence Epstein, working in close collaboration with the HCPO, ICE and INTERPOL.

The return of Brueghel’s “Allegory of Earth and Water” to the Estate of Dr. Max Stern took place on Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 2:15 p.m. (Central European Time) in the presence of President Woodsworth and Dr. Epstein at the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (Instituut Collectie Nederland) Visseringlaan 3, Rijswijk, The Hague (Den Haag).

Media Contact:                                                          
Dr. Clarence Epstein                                                 
Director, Special Projects/Cultural Affairs                 
Office of the President
Concordia University                               

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Fiona Downey
Fiona Downey
Public Affairs
514-848-2424, ext. 2518

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