Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Düsseldorfer Auktionshaus returns paintings by Wilhelm Krafft to the heirs of Max Stern

Date 2016.06.22

The Düs­sel­dor­fer Auk­tion­shaus re­turned the paint­ing "Ital­ienis­che Fam­i­lie" (1837) by Wil­helm Krafft to the Max and Iris Stern Foun­da­tion and its three uni­ver­si­ty ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The work had been iden­ti­fied as so-called 'Nazi con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty'. The paint­ing has been hand­ed over to the Düs­sel­dorf Stadt­mu­se­um as a pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble per­ma­nent loan.

Uwe Hart­mann, head of the Prove­nance Re­search De­part­ment at the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion, held the open­ing speech at the resti­tu­tion cer­e­mo­ny: "To­day’s resti­tu­tion su­perbly demon­strates that the art trade and pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions are in­creas­ing­ly com­ply­ing with and are com­mit­ted to the ba­sic ideas of the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples. We shall con­tin­ue work­ing to ad­vance this ini­tial di­a­logue be­tween the art trade and auc­tion busi­ness, and gen­er­ate aware­ness of Nazi con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty and resti­tu­tion among pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions. Con­se­quent­ly, since 2015 the Foun­da­tion has been sup­port­ing both pub­licly and pri­vate­ly fund­ed or­gan­i­sa­tions and pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als who wish to iden­ti­fy Nazi con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty and find fair and just so­lu­tions in ac­cor­dance with the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples and the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion."

Found­ed in 1913, the Ga­lerie Stern was forced to close in 1937 due to per­se­cu­tion by the Nazis. The paint­ing by Krafft, along with a ma­jor­i­ty of the gallery’s col­lec­tion, was auc­tioned off by Lem­pertz in Cologne.

Af­ter the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion re­ceived an anony­mous tip that there were plans to sell the paint­ing, the Foun­da­tion con­tact­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Stern Foun­da­tion. They in turn, con­tact­ed the Dus­sel­dorf-based auc­tion­eer, with whom they were able to ne­go­ti­ate a fair and just so­lu­tion in the spir­it of the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples.

The Jew­ish art deal­er Max Stern es­caped to Cana­da and be­queathed his es­tate to three uni­ver­si­ties in Cana­da and Is­rael. The uni­ver­si­ties es­tab­lished the Max Stern Art Resti­tu­tion Project which aims to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly lo­cate and se­cure resti­tu­tion of the gallery’s col­lec­tion which had been il­le­gal­ly con­fis­cat­ed and auc­tioned off. The Krafft paint­ing is the thir­teenth piece which has been re­turned to the Stern Foun­da­tion.