Nazi-looted artwork retrieved
This year saw the eighth canvas reclaimed by the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, the first one to be turned over by a government. Allegory of Earth and Water by Jan Brueghel the Younger was publicly presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on December 8.
Concordia University is leading efforts through the Restitution Project to identify, locate and reclaim artworks that belonged to Jewish art dealer Max Stern and were illegally appropriated by the Nazis in the 1930s.
“We are immensely grateful to the Dutch government for supporting us in our efforts to return the Brueghel to its rightful place,” said President Judith Woodsworth.
“While the Brueghel is the eighth painting to be delivered back to the university heirs of Dr. Stern, it is the first one returned to the Max Stern 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 Woodsworth.
The return of this Old Master painting follows the 2009 restitution of another painting that was lost to 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 residing in Rhode Island. The Stern Estate (made up of Concordia University, McGill University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) was instrumental in pleading that case, which resulted in a landmark court decision recognizing the forced sale of Stern’s art collection as equivalent to theft. The ruling has implications for facilitating the return of artworks for similar restitution projects.
In 2006, Catherine MacKenzie, of Concordia’s Art History Department, mounted AUKTION 392: Reclaiming the Galerie Stern, DÃ¼sseldorf, an exhibition presenting works from the Stern collection and the historical context of their forced sale in 1937. Thus far, that exhibition has toured seven cities in Europe, the Middle East and North America, raising awareness of the current dialogue around looted and stolen art, and the legal and moral issues involved. The show will be opening in Florida early in 2011.
On behalf of the Stern Estate, Clarence Epstein, of Concordia’s Office of the President, has worked closely with the Holocaust Claims Processing Office of the New York State Banking Department, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Interpol to facilitate recovery of these paintings.
• More on the return of Brueghel painting
• Auktion 392
• Max Stern Art Restitution Project