Provenance Research

Provenance Research

The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections) conducts research into the provenance of artworks that were acquired or catalogued from 1933 onwards and whose ownership history is unclear. In accordance with the principles agreed at the Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets that was held in 1998, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen continually inspects its holdings at the Pinakothek museums and affiliated galleries in order to determine whether any of its artworks were unlawfully expropriated from Jewish owners during the period of National Socialism in Germany. Our objective is to compile seamless provenance documentation for each work, wherever possible, so that ownership issues can be clarified more easily.

THE BAYERISCHE STAATSGEMÄLDESAMMLUNGEN HAS BEEN CARRYING OUT SYSTEMATIC PROVENANCE RESEARCH SINCE 1999

The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen first created a position dedicated to provenance research in 1999, limited to a period of three years. Until 2002, Ilse von zur Mühlen surveyed the museum’s holdings and compiled a catalogue for the 125 works from the former Göring collection, which was published in 2004. In 2006, the investigated works in this report were reported to www.lostart.de on suspicion of theft. In 2008, the museum set up its own department for provenance research to which a full-time conservation specialist was appointed, i.e., the position was made permanent. Since then, Dr. Andrea Bambi has been examining the provenance of artworks that were made before 1945 and acquired by the museum in or after 1933.

THE BAYERISCHE STAATSGEMÄLDESAMMLUNGEN PROACTIVELY EXAMINE 6,000 WORKS

In addition to the systematic research of 6,000 works in the inventory (paintings and sculptures), the department deals with both incoming restitution claims and proactively detected cases. It reports these to www.lostart.de for suspected loss through persecution (currently 517 reports) and, if possible, it approaches the entitled beneficiaries. Furthermore, it handles and realizes processes relevant to provenance, such as new acquisitions of works of art created before 1945, loans, database entries and catalogue entries.

The staff members of the department regularly take part in advanced training courses, workshops and conferences on provenance and art market research. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are a member of the research network Provenance Research Bavaria and the researchers actively participate in the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e. V. (Association for Provenance Research).

THE PROVENANCE RESEARCH CONDUCTED BY THE BAYERISCHE STAATSGEMÄLDESAMMLUNGEN EXTENDS TO ALL THREE PINAKOTHEK MUSEUMS AND THE BAYERISCHE STAATSGEMÄLDESAMMLUNGEN’S AFFILIATED GALLERIES

It examines paintings and sculptures acquired from 1933 onwards and created before 1945.

Main research topics:

›Former NS Property‹: These art and cultural objects, which were also formerly known as “transfers from state ownership”, used to belong to collections of former NSDAP officials and organizations. They were transferred to the Free State of Bavaria on the basis of directives by the Allied Control Council, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Around 900 of these artworks were subsequently included in the holdings of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, where – due to their origins – they form one of the most problematic groups of works to be researched. This stock has been handled by Dr. Florian Wimmer † (from November 2013 until November 2015), by Dr. Johannes Gramlich (since 1 July 2016) and Anja Zechel M.A. (from November 2012 until May 2017) and Sophie Kriegenhofer (from August 2018 until December 2020).

›Classical Modernism‹: From March 2015 until March 2018, 238 selected works of classical modernism have been examined by Johanna Poltermann. The research situation regarding these works is complex, since they were not acquired directly by the Pinakotheken, but were largely donated to the collection in the post-war period. Important groups of works include, for example, the former private collections of Woty and Theodor Werner, Martha and Markus Kruss, Günther Franke as well as Sofie and Emanuel Fohn. Some of these collections were formed in the Weimar Republic, in the time of National Socialism or even in the post-war period, which is why the actual historical circumstances surrounding their purchase have to be subjected to critical examination.

›Acquisitions 1933-1945‹: The works acquired between 1933 and 1945 were inspected for theft at the Collecting Point in Munich in the immediate post-war period, a second fundamental review was carried out between 1999 and 2002. Since the summer of 2017, this stock comprising 1002 works of art is being reassessed for theft by Anja Zecheland Melida Steinke (from August 2018 until December 2020) on the basis of newly accessible sources and updated as to their provenance details.   

›Acquisitions after 1945 to the present‹: The aim of the project was to be able to exclude all those artworks which show a clear and in every aspect unsuspicious provenance from further research while taking into account that in the course of the initial inspection that was based on the written tradition of inventories and pictorial records, and the state of knowledge today, which has developed considerably compared to the years around 1998/2000. The total scope of the initial check in question here amounted to over 5000 artworks. The project manager until December 2020 was Dr. Ilse von zur Mühlen.

Contact our provenance researchers

News

PROVENANCE ONLINE | PUBLICATION OF PROVENANCE CHAINS IN THE ONLINE COLLECTION

Since 5. September 2022, the information on the provenance (origin) of objects acquired by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen during the Nazi era and objects that were taken on by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen after World War II from the expropriated assets of NSDAP functionaries and organizations has been online. By putting the so-called provenance chains (sequence of owners) online, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are meeting the demand for transparency in provenance research in accordance with the "Washington Principles" of 1998 and the subsequent "Joint Declaration" of 1999.
Provenance data is based on systematic initial checks during which – depending on the holdings – sources such as literature, purchase records, picture files, databases and documents from the Central Collecting Point are evaluated, as well as the reverse side of pictures, as appropriate. This work is being carried out in accordance with the guidelines for the standardisation of provenance data provided by the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V.

Here you can find the information on the provenance of works in the Online Collection of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen.

 

Multimedia archive planned in commemoration of individuals persecuted by the Nazis

The life stories behind restitution cases –690,000 euros funding from BKM

The Stiftung Preusischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) with its Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) and the Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections) are to set up a media library about Jewish collectors, patrons, and owners of art in a three-year project. This archive of long-forgotten fates will be based on provenance research carried out by both institutions. In addition to the media library, digital education formats will be developed specifically for teenagers and young adults. The project is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media; the media partners are Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg and Bayerischer Rundfunk.
More information here.

 

Decision of the Advisory Commission on Hans von Marées’ “Ulanen auf dem Marsch” (“Uhlans on the March”)

Together with the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) representing the Max Stern Estate, the case was presented to the Advisory Commission. In August 2019, the majority of the Advisory Commission voted in favor of restitution of the work. The recommendation is available on the Advisory Commission's website. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen accepted the recommendation in full and restituted the work to the Max Stern Estate on 09.05.2022 under the conditions set by the Commission. 

 

Decision of the Advisory Commission on the painting ‘Das Zitronenscheibchen’ (The Lemon Slide) by Jacob Ochtervelt

In April 2012, representatives of the heirs to the Jewish Bankhaus Hagen in Berlin submitted a claim for the restitution of the painting ‘Das Zitronenscheibchen’ (The Lemon Slice) by Jacob Ochtervelt. The work, deposited in the vault of the bank in Berlin as security for a non-Jewish debtor named Thürling, was sold by the bank in 1938. At the request of the present community of heirs, and in agreement with the superordinated Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst (Ministry of Science and the Arts), the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen and the representatives of the heirs approached the Advisory Commission, under the presidency of Prof. Hans-Jürgen Papier, in 2018, with the aim of reaching an agreement with regard to the painting. A claim was subsequently submitted in January 2019. The hearing took place in Berlin on 9 March, 2020. On 1 July, 2020, the Advisory Commission recommended that the work should be restituted to the heirs of Carl Hagen. The recommendation is available on the Advisory Commission's website. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are in contact with the family and are preparing the restitution.

 

dismissAl OF ACTION in the Flechtheim case

In a decision dated September 28, 2018, the U.S. Federal District Court in New York, which was called upon by the heirs of Alfred Flechtheim, approved a motion to dismiss previously filed by the Free State of Bavaria on its own behalf and on behalf of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (cf. JAHRESBERICHT (ANNUAL REPORT) 2017). With the present decision, the court proceedings in New York are now concluded. The case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction of the U.S. court due to the immunity of the Free State of Bavaria under the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The court did not make any findings of fact in this regard, but dismissed the action because the court would not have had jurisdiction even if the plaintiffs had been able to prove the facts alleged in their statement of claim.

 

Dismissal of action in Mendelssohn-Bartholdy case

The heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy filed a lawsuit against the Free State of Bavaria in the USA in 2013 over the painting by Picasso entitled "Madame Soler". The lawsuit was rejected in two instances due to the sovereign immunity of the Free State of Bavaria for lack of jurisdiction of American courts. Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C., the highest constitutional court in the U.S., also rejected the lawsuit in January 2016.

 

Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung Bayern (Research Association for Provenance Research in Bavaria)

The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections) are a founding member of the Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung Bayern (FPB) – Research Association for Provenance Research in Bavaria, which was established by the Bavarian Ministry of Culture in May 2015. The network seeks to promote provenance research in Bavaria through intensified cooperation. To this end, important files from participating institutions will be digitally indexed and made accessible to the network. Relevant data and facts are made available to all participating researchers via a digital platform. At the same time, training in the field of provenance research is to be strengthened.
The founding members are the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Bavarian National Museum), the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections), the Generaldirektion der Staatlichen Archive Bayerns (General Directorate of the Bavarian State Archives), the Institut für Kunstgeschichte (Institute for Art History) at Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute of Contemporary History), the Landesstelle für die nichtstaatlichen Museen in Bayern (Regional Office for Non-State Museums in Bavaria), the Staatsarchiv München (Bavarian State Archives, Munich), the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München (State Collection of Prints and Drawings, Munich) and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI; Central Institute for Art History).
More information can be found here.

Restitutions

GENERAL SURVEY OF RESTITUTIONS

Click here for an overview of restitutions to date and further information.

Since the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art were agreed in 1998, the Staatsgemäldesammlungen has made restitutions of 23 artworks. These works had originated from the collections of James von Bleichröder, Eduard Behrens, Josef Block, Julius und Semaya Davidsohn, A. S. Drey, Ludwig und Selma Friedmann, Alfred Isay, Curt Glaser, Elisabeth Glanville, Julius Kien, August Liebmann Mayer, Max Meirowsky, Ernst Immanuel Müller, Max Stern, Ottmar Strauss, Sigmund Waldes. Another 2 works are pending for restitution since 2019/20.

Proactive research and restitution claims:

In 2019 Bavarian State Minister of the Arts Bernd Sibler returned together with Prof. Dr. Bernhard Maaz, General Director of the Bavarian State Painting Collections, Prof. Dr. Frank Matthias Kammel, General Director of the Bavarian National Museum, and Dr. Kurt Zeitler, Deputy Director of the State Collection of Prints and Drawings, Munich, nine works of art, which belonged to the Davidsohns, to Hardy Langer, representative of the community of heirs. Due to extensive research, the three museums were able to reconstruct the provenance of five paintings, three color-prints and a wood panel with ivory reliefs, the context of the confiscation and their remaining after 1945. They also found the heirs in London, Zimbabwe and Tel Aviv. In November 1938, Julius and Semaya Franziska Davidsohn were the victims of one of the biggest Nazi art thefts of the Gestapo due to their Jewish ancestry. The looted works of art came to the so-called Central Collecting Point, located at the Königsplatz, and found their way into the possession of the three museums via the Treuhandverwaltung von Kulturgut in Munich in 1955.

In 2017/18, two new provenance reports on works from the collections of Max Stern and Ludwig and Selma Friedmann were created. While the former required a restitution, the cause Friedmann was proactively researched and the heirs were searched for.''

As a result of proactive research in 2017/2018 the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen have restituted a work by Ernst Immanuel Müller to the community of heirs of Ludwig Friedmann (30.10.1880-07.03.1943). The painting entitled "Bauernstube" (Farmhouse Parlour) was handed over to one of the heirs Miriam Friedmann, a granddaughter of Ludwig and Selma Friedmann on behalf of the community of heirs. This is the fourteenth work to be restituted by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen since the "Washington Principles" were passed in 1998. As Ludwig and Selma Friedmann were residents of Augsburg and Miriam Friedmann, lives in the city, the restitution was made at the Schaezlerpalais. It is the community of heirs' wish that, in future, the painting remains in the family. FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE RESTITUTION CAN BE FOUND HERE.

In 2006, following a provenance report, the painting The Raising of Lazarus by a south-German master was placed on the internet database Lostart.de, suspected of having been confiscated by the Nazis. In 2016, discussions about the restitution of the painting took place with two firms of lawyers representing the heirs of James von Bleichröder. The restitution took place on 21 July 2016 and, thanks to an agreement with the owners’ representatives, the painting was re-acquired by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE RESTITUTION CAN BE FOUND HERE.

Reports of Findings

The Staatsgemäldesammlungen lists research findings on www.lostart.de

In cases where theft or loss caused by Nazi persecution cannot be completely ruled out, the works are registered on the Lost Art website(www.lostart.de). The online database is open to the public and provides access to the most up-to-date information on the paintings so that potential owners can come forward with their claims. The number of works listed on Lost Art is constantly increasing and demonstrates that the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen takes its responsibility to inspect its collections and to report looted-art very seriously.

306 artworks are currently listed on Lost Art. At first glance, however, these are fewer than last year, as it is now only permitted to post information on objects that are still in the declarant's inventory. This means, however, that about 150 records of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are no longer visible here, as the corresponding works have already been handed over, most of them in the 1960s. A publication of these data is also in preparation on the part of the operator of the platform (DZK).

Research into the works is ongoing. Our provenance researchers are consulting additional resources in an attempt to fill in gaps in the chain of ownership and fully clarify the origins of the paintings and sculptures. 

Staff

Dr Andrea Bambi, Anja Zechel M.A. (l.t.r.)

The Department of Provenance Research at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen has three staff members: Dr. Andrea Bambi, art historian, 1 full-time position (senior conservator position); NN, 1 full-time position (permanent); Anja Zechel M.A., historian, 1 part-time position (permanent).

Photo: Haydar Koyupinar

Alfred Flechtheim

Until March 2014, fifteen museums and the website www.alfredflechtheim.com hosted exhibitions of artworks whose provenance (ownership history) has a connection with the galleries of Alfred Flechtheim. The works on display came to the respective collections via different routes: some were acquired by the museums directly from Alfred Flechtheim—either as acquisitions or gifts from his collection, or through his contacts. Other works were sold by Flechtheim to third parties and only came to the museums later, mostly after 1945, having changed hands several times in the interim.

The gallery owner Alfred Flechtheim (1878–1937) was a major figure in the art scene of the first third of the 20th century. His support of ‘Rhenish expressionism’, the French avant-garde and German modernism as well as his patronage of such luminaries as Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Paul Klee even brought him international recognition during his lifetime. When the Nazis came to power, however, his life and that of his family changed drastically: in October 1933, Flechtheim was forced to flee Germany—as an art dealer of Jewish origins he was publicly denounced and by 1935 his galleries in Düsseldorf and Berlin had been put into liquation or were continued by his former partners. The remnants of his art collection were transferred abroad, mostly to London where he died after an accident in 1937 at just 59 years of age. His wife Betty, awaiting her pending deportation, committed suicide in 1941. The remaining artworks in her Berlin apartment were confiscated and from then on are considered lost.

In 2009, Alfred Flechtheim’s heirs announced their suspicion that numerous works that once belonged to Flechtheim in museum collections in Germany and abroad may have been acquired under duress. The first settlement and restitution of artworks were agreed with the family of Alfred Flechtheim (Bonn, Cologne) in 2012 and 2013. Provenance researchers in the museums have continued since then to work together in accordance with the guidelines on the implementation of the ‘Declaration of the Federal Government of Germany, the German Länder and the National Associations of Local Authorities on the tracing and return of Nazi-confiscated cultural assets, especially from Jewish ownership’, signed in 1999 with the aim of expanding the current body of knowledge and answering unresolved questions. This research was the starting point for the exhibition project, which pays tribute to Alfred Flechtheim’s extraordinary impact as a dealer who promoted artists condemned by the Nazis, and commemorates the abrupt end to his career and the related losses that he experienced as well as the tragic fate of his family.

It is not always possible to provide seamless documentation on the provenance of artworks, as important records are often lost due to persecution, war, flight and emigration or cannot be accessed because of privacy rights. Flechtheim’s business records at the Mayor Gallery were destroyed by the German Air force during the London blitz of September 1940, the Royal Air Force bombed the Düsseldorf gallery in 1943 and no known documents have survived from the Berlin gallery. Because of these circumstances, even now 76 years after Alfred Flechtheim’s death and despite years of international research, it has not yet been possible to conclusively reconstruct the chain of ownership of all of his artworks.