Art Law Report

Vienna Natural History Museum Restitutes Botanical Drawings to Nazi Victims' Heirs, Acknowledges the Too-Often-Ignored Reality of Persecution and Coerced Sales

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 6, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Vienna’s Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) has restituted 177 botanical drawings and prints to the heirs of Dr. Ernst Moritz Kronfeld. The restitution, while somewhat delayed following a 2011 recommendation by Austria’s Advisory Council under the country’s Law for the Restitution of Artworks from the Austrian National Museums (Bundesgesetz über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenstände aus den Österreichischen Bundesmuseen), highlights the increasing sophistication of that Advisory Council, particularly compared to recent steps backward by the Limbach Commission in Germany. Austria, once a lightening rod for criticism about confronting wartime and Nazi provenance issues, returned these drawings because of the clear problems with trying to portray any 1941 conveyance by a Viennese Jew as an arms’ length transaction—even without direct evidence of coercion. Just as importantly, it brushed away the defense that the drawings had been acquired in good faith as an excuse to continued possession, a dramatic change from the perspective usually taken by civil law countries.

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Topics: Theresienstadt, Lvov, Nationalbibliothek, Galicia, Law for the Restitution of Artworks from the Austr, Germany, Nuremberg, Nazi Victims, Treblinka, Dr. Rudolf Engel, Naturhistorisches Museum, Henry David Thoreau, Hermann Goring, Hitler Youth, Mario Lanzer, Gauleiter, Dr. Ernst Moritz Kronfeld, National Library, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Bundesgesetz über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenständ, Restitution, Clara Levy, Hapsburg, Luxembourg, Vienna Natural History Museum, Ryk van der Schot, Empress Maria Theresia, World War II, The Three Graces, Franz Stefan von Lothringen, Lemberg, Ukraine, Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquinn, Rosalia Kronfeld, Austro-Hungarian empire, Drei Grazien, Lovis Corinth, Museums, Israeli Cultural Society, Austria’s Advisory Council, Gustav Klimt, Schönbrunn, Vienna, Anschluss, Welfenschatz, Baldur von Schirach, Limbach Commission

Are “Flight Goods” Different than Looted Art? Questions About Fair Value and Duress in Wartime Resonate After Recent Limbach Commission Decision

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 3, 2014 at 8:32 AM

A conference was held last week at the Oskar Reinhart Museum in Winterthur, Switzerland, entitled “Fluchtgut: Geschichte, Recht und Moral” (Flight Goods: History, Law and Morality). The objective conference was described in its program as follows (my translation):

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Topics: Expressionist, Esther Tisa Francini, Allied Collecting Points, Südkurier, Auctions, Florian Weiland, Oskar Reinhart Museum, Dresden, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Nazi-looted art, Robert Graetz, Buchholz Gallery, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Winterthur, Entartete Kunst, Beratende Kommission, Curt Valentin, Restitution, Melissa Müller, Luzern, Clara Levy, Farm in Dangast, Fluchtgut: Geschichte Recht und Moral, Lucas Elmenhorst, Luxembourg, Looted Art, World War II, Lucerne, Switzerland, degenerate art, Handelsblatt, Lost Lives Lost Art Jewish Collectors Nazi Art The, Galerie Fischer, Imke Gielen, Washingtoner Prinzipien, Jutta Limbach, Washington Principles, Drei Grazien, Flight Goods: History Law and Morality, Lovis Corinth, Monika Tatzkow, Three Graces, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Raubkunst, Hans Posse, Limbach Commission, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

Limbach Commission Rules Against Claimants to Restitution of “Three Graces” by Lovis Corinth in Unpersuasive Opinion

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 28, 2014 at 8:17 AM

The German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property (Beratende Kommission) has issued its latest decision concerning allegedly Nazi-looted art in German museums. For the second case in a row after the widely (and wisely) derided opinion not to restitute the Welfenschatz or Guelph Treasure at the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, the commission (known for its presiding member, former German Supreme Constitutional Court judge Jutta Limbach) has recommended against restitution, this time over the claim by heirs of Clara Levy to The Three Graces (Drei Grazien) by Lovis Corinth (1902/1904). The decision (available only in German) is riddled with poor logic and basic historical errors. In short, while it may be that the painting was indeed delivered to Clara Levy’s daughter in the United States at Clark’s express instruction, that is far less clear than the commission states, and its decision further makes a number of assumptions about the circumstances of Jews in occupied or about-to-be occupied territories that undermine its credibility considerably.

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Topics: Berlin, Else Bergmann, Schleifmühle, Guelph Treasure, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Ludwig Levy, Fritz Levy, Rita Hubbard, Germany, Nazi-looted art, bill of lading, Especially Jewish Property, Buchholz Gallery, Madame Soler, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, San Francisco, Entartete Kunst, Beratende Kommission, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, FSIA, Curt Valentin, expropriation exception”, Gurlitt, Restitution, Max Huggler, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Clara Levy, Sigfried Rosengart, Luxembourg, Henry Zacharias, Compagnie Generale Transatlantique Hol Lesquette, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Jutta Limbach, Kunstmuseum Bern, Drei Grazien, Pablo Picasso, Lovis Corinth, Museums, Three Graces, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Federal Republic of Germany, Paula Levy, Kurt Buchholz, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, New York, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

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