Photo Credit: Courtesy Max Stern Estate
Jan Porcellis, Ships in Distress on a Stormy Sea

The Max Stern Foundation, overseeing Jewish art dealer Max Stern’s estate for his heirs, expects to take possession of two paintings by Dutch old masters Jan Porcellis and Willem Buytewech the Younger, The Art Newspaper reported Monday.

Stern was forced by the Nazi Chamber of Fine Arts in September 1937 to close his business, because all Jewish citizens had been forbidden from selling art. In November, Stern was forced to auction off a large segment of the Stern Gallery by order of the Nazi government. These artworks were sold in one of Germany’s oldest auction houses, Kunsthaus Lempertz. They went on the block by their lot number, Auktion 392. Not all the pieces were sold, and Stern placed those that remained in storage with shipping agent Josef Roggendorf. Roggendorf stored the artwork close to the Düsseldorf gallery, but eventually it was confiscated by the Nazis.

Jan Porcellis, Ships in Distress on a Stormy Sea
Jan Porcellis, Ships in Distress on a Stormy Sea
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Stern then spent several years trying to track down his 28 confiscated paintings. He advertised in the German art magazine Die Weltkunst, offering a reward for any information pertaining to the location of his paintings. The works Musical Party by Dirck Hals and Landscape with Figures by Salomon van Ruysdael were eventually recovered with help from the Canadian government after the war. Last Judgment by Hieronymus Bosch was returned in 1954. Other works were never found.

Now an anonymous tip from an art trade informer alerted the foundation that Ships in Distress on a Stormy Sea by Jan Porcellis (~1584-1632) was for sale at Auktionhaus Metz in Heidelberg. Also, Germany’s Federal Crime Office identified Landscape With Goats by Willem Buytewech the Younger (1625-70) which was advertised at Auktionshaus Stahl in Hamburg.

In both cases, the sellers agreed to return the works in “amicable discussions,” according to the foundation.

The Max Stern Foundation has announced that it is developing a program with the German Friends of Hebrew University, to compensate good-faith holders of Stern’s missing paintings. Under the new program, the foundation would issue holders who turn in Stern’s works a tax-deductible donor’s certificate stating their value, for tax purposes.

“There has been a recurrence of these works being consigned by individuals in good faith,” Clarence Epstein, Senior Director of Urban and Cultural Affairs at Concordia, told The Art Newspaper. “This solution means that they can get some relief despite having a problematic artwork.”

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