Cummer Curator to Speak on Nazi Art Looting in NYC

June 1, 2015 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Shortly after our article spotlighting the amazing Jacques de Claeuw painting back in 2012, the Cummer Museum was sued for ownership of the work as part of an effort to recover art looted by the Nazis and placed in the private collection of Hermann Goering, one of the most notorious of the Nazi Overlords. With typical Jville grace and the character that this community has come to expect of the Cummer women, the Museum returned the work to the family and paid an unpublished sum for their distant involvement in the injustice. As a result of the amicable conditions of the settlement, the family estate gifted the painting back to the Cummer. Chief Curator Holly Keris will be speaking on the subject in NY. Join us after the jump for the details!

Directly from the press release:

Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens Chief Curator Holly Keris will be representing the Museum at the Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Symposium held at New York University June 4 through 6, 2015.  Her discussion will stem from the 2014 Nazi-looting claim surrounding the painting Vanitas (1677) by Jacques De Claeuw. Originally owned by noted Old Master dealer Jacques Goudstikker, the piece was returned to a Goudstikker heir by the Cummer Museum Board of Trustees, but an agreement was later reached to keep work at the Museum.

Check out the story from the LA Times here:

Marei von Saher, who sued to recover prized Renaissance paintings that have been a highlight of the Norton Simon Museum since the 1970s, has reached a settlement with a Florida museum over a 1600s still-life that also was looted by the Nazis.

The paintings in Florida and Pasadena, including the Norton Simon's disputed “Adam and Eve,” had been owned by Jacques Goudstikker, a prominent Jewish art dealer who fled the Nazi invasion of Holland in 1940 with his family. He left behind an art trove that was seized by Hermann Goering, one of the Third Reich's top overlords.

A written announcement from Von Saher’s attorneys this week said the Connecticut woman’s ownership claim to “Vanitas” has been “resolved amicably” without a suit being filed.

The Cummer Museum acknowledged that Von Saher owned the painting, paid her an undisclosed sum that was less than its full value, then accepted it back from her as a donation made in memory of her father-in-law, Goudstikker, who died in an aboard-ship accident while fleeing the Nazis.

"The museum's admirable decision to return the painting” prompted Von Saher to donate it back, according to the announcement of the settlement this week by Herrick, Feinstein, the New York City law firm that represents her.

The announcement did not mention Von Saher's related claim against the Norton Simon, but her comments tacitly contrasted the approaches taken by the museums in Jacksonville and Pasadena. The Norton Simon has fought for more than seven years in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to parry Von Saher’s claim to the far more valuable “Adam and Eve.”

“It is heartening to see museums like the Cummer do the right thing for Holocaust victims and their heirs,” she said in her written statement. “We hope that the restitution of this work will lead other museums to act just as responsibly when faced with the discovery of Nazi-looted art in their collections.”

There is probably little comparison between the Cummer and Norton Simon paintings when it comes to historical significance and monetary value. A 2006 insurance appraisal valued the Pasadena museum’s “Adam and Eve” at $24 million. A De Claeuw still life that’s being auctioned July 10 at Sotheby’s in London has an estimated sale price of $67,000 to $101,000. The Jacksonville museum's De Claeuw is more than three times larger than the one going under the gavel.

This is the kind of thing that sets our Arts Community apart, and the Cummer Board and the entire staff of the museum deserves recognition and praise for handling the matter ethically, humanely and without any embarrassing hesitation in doing the right thing.  All the best wishes to Holly as she brings Jacksonville's example to the rest of the art world this week.

Stephen Dare

See our original article about the piece here:

A one-of-a-kind piece featured in The Cummer’s permanent collection is Vanitas by Jacques De Clauew. This painting is especially significant, in that it is one of the relatively few works known by Jacques de Claeuw, and is typical of the artist's vanitas still lifes. The term vanitas (Latin for “emptiness”) is applied to still life images featuring objects that represent the brevity of life or the emptiness of worldly concerns. De Claeuw’s contemporary public was familiar with such symbolism and would have recognized the partially covered celestial globe as an attribute of astronomy. The globe, along with a copy of the Amsterdam Waersegger Almanach (1677), a soothsayer’s almanac, refers to man’s inability to accurately predict the future. The musical instruments, inkwell, sealing wax, and cards refer to the vanity of worldly amusements. The hourglass and the smoke associated with the pipe and candle denote the passage of time. The flies and flowers are symbolic of decay and the shortness of life. The image of Venus refers to the impermanence of physical beauty. The small portrait of the prominent engraver Pieter de Jode (1604-1674) is a reference to the immortality an artist attempts to gain through art.

Jacques De Clauew, born Jacques Grief, was a Dutch Golden Age painter from a small river town in northern Holland. Because of a physical deformity, he was given the nickname of “de Claeuw” meaning “the claw.” The artist completed his training under the marine and still life painter Abraham van Beyeren. Grief went on to marry Maria van Goyen, daughter of the landscape painter Josef van Goyen in 1651, and was the brother-in-law of the interior painter Jan Steen. Grief was known for his still life images. Popularized as an independent genre by Dutch artists of the period, Still Life appealed to the taste of Calvinist patrons who objected to overtly religious art.