Courtauld faces renewed spoliation claim following Dutch decision

Though initially the claim was rejected, a case from the continent may leave room for appeal

The Courtauld Gallery is facing a renewed Nazi-era spoliation claim for eight drawings, following a decision in the Netherlands in the claimants’ favour in a similar case. The claim comes from the descendants of Curt Glaser, a former head of Berlin’s state art library, who had to leave Germany in June 1933. He had sold his art collection in two auctions a month earlier. A claim for the drawings—by Domenico Fossati, Domenico Piola, Giovanni Crosato, Giuseppe Bison, Lovis Corinth, Renoir and a work from the 17th-century Italian school—was made against the Courtauld and referred to the UK’s Spoliation Advisory Panel.

The panel rejected the Glaser claim in June 2009. It argued that although the main motive for the sale was Nazi persecution, the prices received were at the prevailing market rate. The panel concluded that the claimants’ moral case was insufficient to recommend the restitution of the drawings.

But in the Netherlands, the official advisory committee on restitution reached a different decision on a similar claim in October 2010. This was against the Rijksmuseum for Jan van de Velde II’s Winter Landscape (pictured), which was auctioned in May 1933 and donated to the museum two years later. The committee recommended the painting should be restituted to the descendants, on the grounds that the 1933 sale was made to fund Glaser’s escape and pay taxes.

Last month the lawyer for the Glaser claimants, David Rowland, told us that he has written to the UK’s department for culture, arguing that the case against the Courtauld should be re-examined by the advisory panel, in light of the Dutch decision. The UK ministry told us that this would only be considered if “significant new evidence” is produced.

In a separate case the panel rejected a claim against the Courtauld by descendants of German banker Herbert Gutmann for Rubens’s Coronation of the Virgin (1613). It said the moral basis of this claim was “weak”.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 220 January 2011