Further restitutions for Max Stern estate
By Martha Lufkin. Market, Issue 203, June 2009
Published online: 27 May 2009
BOSTON. The Max Stern estate has recovered two further works of art that were lost by the Jewish collector when Nazi Germany ordered his collection to be sold in 1937. The auction was handled by Lempertz auction house in Cologne, a government-approved art purveyor, after the Reich Chamber for the Fine Arts said that Dr Stern was not a suitable exponent of German culture. The estate has previously recovered other paintings, including the Dutch old master work Flight from Egypt in December 2008 (The Art Newspaper, January p47).
On 6 May, Concordia University in Montreal, a beneficiary of Max Stern’s estate, announced the return of a painting of St Jerome by the Italian baroque artist Ludovico Carracci. Peter Smith, a special agent at the US Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New York, said that art dealer Richard Feigen had cooperated in the return of the Carracci, and hoped that Mr Feigen’s “peers in the trade” would also “take a good look at their own works”.
Mr Feigen unwittingly bought the work when it was reoffered at Lempertz in 2000, Concordia said. Clarence Epstein, head of the Max Stern art restitution effort at Concordia, said that “a number of German auction houses have regularly offered tainted property in the postwar period”, but that doing so “is clearly backfiring”.
The other returned work, the Portrait of a Musician Playing a Bagpipe, a 17th-century Dutch painting, had also come back to Lempertz for sale. In 2007, it was bought at Lempertz by London art dealer Philip Mould, who sold it to New York gallery owner Lawrence Steigrad. In April, undercover federal agents from ICE visited Mr Steigrad’s Manhattan gallery, where they informed him that the work was stolen, and seized it. The US Attorneys Office said there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on the dealer’s part, and that Mr Steigrad had fully cooperated in the transfer of the art.
Dr Stern settled in Canada. He died in 1987, leaving his estate to beneficiaries including Concordia and McGill universities in Montreal, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
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