27 May 2011

Gabriel Metsu at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

This stunning exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, which had already been at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, brings together more than 30 playful, delicately observant genre paintings by a 17th century Dutch master, Gabriel Metsu.

Interestingly, the paintings labeled as coming from “private collections” turn out to be the ones with the more complex histories.

As part of our commitment to transparency in the global art market, here is our version of the Metsu exhibit currently on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

“A Woman writing a letter,” c. 1662-64, Oil on panel, Private Collection.

"A Woman Writing a Letter", Gabriel Metsu
Source: National Gallery of Ireland
"A Woman Writing a Letter", Gabriel Metsu
Source: DHM MCCP Database via Bundesarchiv
According to the Munich Central Collecting Point (MCCP) Database, this painting originated in Amsterdam. It was sold by a dealer named Hartog to agents of Adolf Hitler’s Linzmuseum project. The Allies found the painting at Altaussee before returning it for processing and repatriation to Holland from the Munich collecting point.

“A hunter visiting a woman at her toilet[te],”, 1661-63, Oil on panel, private collection, United States.

"A Hunter Visiting a Woman at Her Toilette", Gabriel Metsu
Source: ERR Project via Bundesarchiv
"A Hunter Visiting a Woman at Her Toilette", Gabrielle Metsu
Source: National Gallery of Ireland
This charming interior scene hails from a private collection somewhere in the United States. At one point in time, it belonged to the heirs of Alphonse de Rothschild in Paris, France, from where the Germans plundered it in the summer of 1940. After being processed at the Jeu de Paume, Hermann Goering took custody of this painting as he did of many others from the Rothschild collection. Moreover, the ERR art-historical staff produced a complete pre-1940 provenance as exemplified by the content of the card produced for this painting and designated as R 5/”Das Besuch.”
R 6
Source: DHM MCCP Database via Bundesarchiv
R 6
Source: ERR Project via NARA
It was processed through the MCCP and repatriated to France in September 1945 and subsequently restituted to the Rothschild family.
R 6
Source: DHM MCCP Database via Bundesarchiv
R 6
Source: ERR Project via NARA
You can also find this painting at http://www.errproject.org/jeudepaume/card_view.php?CardId=6343

Last but not least, my favorite Metsu painting of this set:

“Le corset rouge/Red corset” or “Woman artist with red corset”, circa 1661-64, oil on panel, Private collection.
"Woman Artist with Red Corset"
Source: ERR Project via Bundesarchiv
"Woman Artist with Red Corset"
Source: National Gallery of Ireland
Who knows who the happy current anonymous owner is of this wonderful painting? What we do care about is that it also belonged to the Rothschild family in Paris, France. Dubbed “Die Malerin” by the ERR and labeled “R 8”, this painting suffered the same fate as that of the “Hunter visiting a woman at her toilet[te]”. But, since it had suffered some damage and was in need of restoration, the ERR sent it to Buxheim where the official ERR restorer, Otto Klein and his staff helped stabilize it. Rather than go through Munich, the painting was repatriated to France in December 1945 and restituted to the Rothschild family.
 
R 6
Source: ERR Project via NARA
R 8
Source: ERR Project via NARA
If you are in Washington, DC, please visit the Gabriel Metsu exhibit at the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art and realize, once again, that behind every work on public display lies a complex and sometimes dramatic story provoked by unpredictable turns of history.