Looted art

Six hundred works of uncertain provenance listed in report on UK museums

This will assist in the identification of looted artworks

To assist in the identification of looted works of art, the UK National Museum Directors’ Conference has published a further report on items with an uncertain wartime provenance.

It includes new material on the British Library and the National Maritime Museum, as well as updated information on 10 institutions covered in last February’s report, which listed 350 works. Research is also promised at university and local authority museums, such as the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam, the Courtauld, Birmingham City Museums and Art Gallery and Hull’s Ferens Art Gallery. The Courtauld plan is particularly helpful, since it highlights 18 “high priority” paintings—eight works by Rubens, three by Tiepolo, and others by the Cologne School, Degas, Koenig, the Master of Ulm, Oost and Tintoretto, plus a forgery by Hans van Meegeren.

The new national museums’ report, listing a total of 600 works with uncertain provenance, is available on uk/spoliation.

Following our article on the national museums’ first report (The Art Newspaper, No. 102, April 2000, p.14), an elderly dealer in Lucerne contacted the British Museum about Van Gogh’s “La Crau from Montmajour”. The woman explained that her father had been a friend of collector Anthony van Hoboken, who had owned the drawing from 1928 until after the war. She has her father’s copy of the catalogue for the 1945 Van Gogh exhibition at Basel with Hoboken’s name annotated as the owner. This confirms that the work was not looted, and it has therefore been removed from the list of works with an uncertain provenance for the Nazi period.

So far the only formal claim to the newly established Spoliation Advisory Panel is for Jan Griffier’s “View of Hampton Court Palace”, at the Tate and a claim is now being submitted for the Benevento Missal in the British Library (see p.9). New information has just been received from Cologne auctioneer Lempertz, who sold the Griffier in 1955, revealing that the vendor was a collector in Offenbach, outside Frankfurt. The painting is now being claimed by three elderly members of a German family living in the south-east of England, who say that their mother was forced to sell it in Brussels in 1940. The Spoliation Advisory Panel considered the case on 2 November and its report has just gone to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Arts Minister Mr Alan Howarth is expected to make an announcement on the fate of the Griffier shortly.