An exhibit celebrating a reclaimed painting stolen by Nazis opened in Rotterdam over the weekend, displayed as part of the Tax and Customs Museum.
“In many countries it’s very difficult to get back the property that was looted from Jews, but art is almost symbolic for many countries,” said Bobby Brown, executive director of Israeli Holocaust restitution project, HEART. “They don’t want to lose their art treasures.”
The Masters of the Goldsmith Guild in Amsterdam in 1701 by Dutch portrait painter Juriaen Pool II was on in Germany until 1937 in Max Stern’s art gallery. The gallery opened in 1913 and contained an impressive collection until Stern was forced to flee to Canada, leaving hundreds of works of art behind.
The painting was rediscovered in 2011 hanging in a German casino where it had been decorating the casino wall since shortly after the end of World War II. With the help of Concordia University in Montreal, the masterwork was recovered and has now been sold to the Dutch museum.
“People were very happy that the painting was to stay in the Netherlands because it is by a Dutch painter,” said Anne-Marieke van Schaik, representative of the Tax and Custom’s Museum of Rotterdam.
“There are only about 16 works of his [that are] known and because it’s a very appropriate subject for our museum, everyone thought it was very fitting.”
The piece has been significantly restored, and is finally ready to be displayed in the museum. The history of the painting and its wartime theft will all be detailed in the museum’s new “Justice and Confidence” exhibit.
“We are so pleased that the painting is at the [Trade and Customs] museum in perpetuity.
Knowing that this work will be on display for the public is an important factor for the university heirs, as well as the Max Stern estate,” said the senior director of urban and cultural affairs at Concordia, Clarence Epstein, in a prerecorded statement for the exhibit’s opening. “It has now returned home to Holland and we congratulate everyone for the work it took to bring it back.”
Concordia University’s Max Stern Restitution Project has worked since 2002 to recover as many of Stern’s paintings as possible and to date have found 12 of his 400 missing works. Concordia is one of three universities that were named as principal heirs of Stern’s estate after his death, along with Canada’s McGill University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.