18 December 2022

Maison Bulgari and the Nazis

Maison Bulgari, Rome

by Marc Masurovsky

Why would a high-end luxury goods business like Bulgari become a target of Allied investigations during WWII? That honor resulted from a convergence of seemingly isolated factors when, brought together, created a pattern of behavior extending internationally and involving businessmen, art agents, Nazi officials, and a possible Jewish victim of plunder. The end result was a suspicion that Bulgari would allow itself to be used as a conduit and enabler of Nazi attempts to secrete assets overseas in places where they could technically be invested in ventures meant to subvert the post-1945 world.

In 1941, US officials questioned Achille Colombo after his arrival in New York from Italy via Buenos Aires, Argentina. The circuitous journey lasted seven months from March to October 1940. Colombo had with him two platinum, diamond and ruby rings worth 47,000 dollars (1945 value). He told US officials that he had acquired them from Bulgari in Italy, several years prior. They were to be delivered to Henri Untermans, Bulgari’s representative in New York.

Henri Untermans
Colombo had a bank account at Banco de Provincia in Buenos Aires. They suspected Colombo of acting as a channel to sell assets “removed from Italy.” While Colombo was on his long and circuitous trek to New York, the Bulgari House opened its Lugano store from which it would transact in high-end and high-value objects. A financial investigation into Colombo’s business dealings revealed a three-way transaction involving the rings between Constantine G. Bulgari in Lugano, Banco de Provincia, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Chase National Bank in New York City. The transaction was worth 47,000 dollars, the exact value of the rings in Colombo’s possession.

Eberhard von Mackensen

Constantino-Giorgio Bulgari and his partner, Giorgio-Leonido Bulgari, both Greek-born, owned The House of Sotirio Bulgari. Based in Rome, the Bulgaris were able to avoid restrictive measures imposed by Fascist authorities on Greeks residing in Fascist Italy. They hobnobbed with Eberhardt von Mackensen, the German Ambassador in Rome, with whom they were often in daily contact. One of the Bulgaris even met in Zurich with the Baron Kurt von Behr, senior official of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in German-occupied Paris. He acted as Hermann Goering’s emissary to explore possible ways of laundering plundered diamonds valued at 7 million Swiss francs, once the property of Louis Arscher, a Parisian jeweler.

To spice things up a bit, Giacomo Laurenti, Bulgari’s lawyer in Lugano and honorary Greek consul, was allegedly implicated in trafficking precious stones from across Europe. Some jewels and stones that he had shipped to the Americas were seized in Bermuda by British blockade officials. When US diplomats stationed in Switzerland questioned Laurenti about his work for Bulgari, he stated that he acted as a “mail drop” for them so that they could communicate with “persons outside Axis territory.” Laurenti was not alone: Benno Geiger, a Venetian art dealer of German ancestry, did Goering’s bidding as a go-between to acquire old silver and other luxury objects from Bulgari to the tune of nine million lira (1945 value).

Primary Sources:

Safehaven Report, Maison Sotirio Bulgari, Rome, Italy, Despatch No. 11823 from US Embassy in Berne, 1 June 1945, 850.3 series, RG 153 M 1933 Reel 2 NARA.

Looted Art in Occupied Territories, Neutral Countries and Latin America, Foreign Economic Admnistration revised report, August 1945, pp. 24-5., RG 239 M 1944 Reel 9, NARA.

Photo credits:

Bulgari, Rome

Henri Untermans
c/o Sousa Mendes Foundation

Eberhard von Mackensen

05 December 2022

The disappearance of Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man

Portrait of a Young Man

by Marc Masurovsky

What happened to Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man which belongs to the world-renown collection of the Krakow-based Czartoryski family? The now-iconic painting (the poster child for WWII plundered “treasures”) pulled off a world-class vanishing act in the early days of May 1945 as US troops closed in on the South Bavarian compound of Hans Frank, Governor-General of German-occupied Poland.

The Czartoryski family, one of the flowers of Polish nobility, owned palatial residences and estates in Krakow, Goluchów and Sieniawa (Poland). Since 1893, the Goluchów Castle served as a Museum of the Czartoryski collection. Many of the family’s artistic possessions were stored and displayed there. They included close to 5000 art objects and antiquities as well as several hundred Old Master paintings. The bulk of the collection was transferred to Sieniawa for protection. Soon after the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, German troops reached the Czartoryski estates and seized their contents. To make matters worse, a local mason had betrayed the location of the hidden Czartoryski “treasury.”

Hans Frank

In October 1939, Kajetan Mühlmann, who had played a major role in the plunder of cultural treasures in German-occupied Poland, brought to Berlin choice pieces from the confiscated Czartoryski collection—works by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. In late November, at Martin Bormann’s urging, Hans Posse, the director of Hitler’s Linz museum project, requested the transfer of the best pieces from the Czartoryski collection to the Linz museum. It fell on deaf ears. The paintings returned to Krakow only to be shipped back to Berlin in 1942, this time on orders from Field Marshal Hermann Goering. However, the Nazis, fearing for the safety of the works due to Allied bombardments, opted to send the works back to Krakow, where they were stored at the Wawel Castle. 

Wawel Castle, Krakow

From August 1944 to January 1945, in the face of an imminent offensive by the Soviet Red Army, a gradual evacuation began of Hans Frank’s Krakow HQ and the many plundered art objects and paintings under his control. The main evacuation point was the estate of Count Manfred von Richtofen in Seichau (Sichów), Silesia, which the Auswärtiges Amt [German Foreign Office] had requisitioned for use by Hans Frank, his staff and the German Army. At the outset, a small number of Frank’s aides had appeared at Seichau (Sichów). It was not until the surrender of Krakow that the largest contingents overtook von Richtofen’s castle. He confirmed that Frank and his top aides had remained in the main house for only a few days until their “sudden” departure on 23 January 1945. In other words, Frank did not reach Seichau (Sichów) until mid-January 1945. 

Seichau Castle, Silesia
A German official by the name of Gross indicated that in the months following the requisition of von Richtofen’s estate, there was a continual movement of “lorries” which carried ‘objets d’art’ as well as“foodstuffs and large quantities of alcohol.” He noted that, after the departure of the Frank party on 23 January 1945, the rooms that they had occupied at Seichau (Sichów) were in “complete chaos,” a statement confirmed by Fraulein Liselotte Freund of Seichau Castle. (Gross and Liselotte Freund supplied separate statements to an SS investigative officer on 2 February 1945).

Frau von Wietersheim’s Muhrau estate, 14 km from Seichau, served as a secondary evacuation point. Wilhelm Ernst von Palézieux, Hans Frank’s chief of the ‘Referat für Kunst’ (Art Section) and Eduard Kneisel, an Austrian-born restorer, were responsible for ensuring the safety of the plundered treasures from the Czartoryski and other noble Polish collections. They watched over the thousands of art works and objects in their custody at both estates.

It took the greater part of a month for the various convoys carrying Hans Frank and his many staff members to reach Neuhaus am Schliersee in southern Bavaria where Hans Frank had an estate. Neuhaus am Schliersee became the final destination for the Polish looted cultural treasures under Frank’s control, including those that belonged to the Czartoryskis. On 17 February 1945, Hans Frank informed Dr. Lammers, chief of the Reich Chancellery, that the last convoys had reached Neuhaus.

According to London-based Count Zamoyski, one of the heirs to the Czartoryski estate, the Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael was stored at a villa serving as a residence for Wilhelm Ernst von Palézieux in the immediate vicinity of Hans Frank’s compound. Eduard Kneisel confirmed this fact in subsequent years and testified that he had not conducted any restoration work on the painting but that it had been removed from its massive crate.

The “vanishing”

In the first week of May 1945, American military units converged on the Bavarian compound of Hans Frank at Neuhaus am Schliersee. They searched Frank’s office in the “Bergfrieden” chalet, which was near the “Schoberhof”, his main residence. According to an American miliary investigative report, the troops conducted only a superficial search of the “Schoberhof.” The MFAA took nearly a year to file a report on the circumstances surrounding Hans Frank’s capture and the disappearance of the Raphael. The report acknowledged that US troops had not conducted an extensive search of the “Schoberhof.”

On 4-5 May 1945, American troops located and arrested Hans Frank as he tried to escape with members of this retinue. Frank made a failed attempt at suicide on 6 May 1945. US troops recovered most of Hans Frank’s loot. However, the Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael vanished into thin air either right before the arrival of American troops or under their very noses while they were overtaking Neuhaus. It’s anyone’s guess where the painting is currently stashed. 

Primary sources:

Document 3614-PS, Evacuation of Cracow, UConn Archives and Special Collections

Frank to Lammers, Document 3614-PS, Office of US Chief Counsel, IMT

undated letter from Count von Richtofen to an Ortsgruppenleiter of the NSV [National Socialist Welfare Organization]

"The loot from Poland," unsigned summary. RG 59, Lot 62D-4, Ardelia Hall Collection, Box 9, NARA.

Ardelia Hall to Count Zamoyski, 15 December 1960, Lot 62D-4 Ardelia Hall Collection, Box 13, NARA.

Walther Bader interrogation by Edgar Breitenbach and Dr. Roethel, 24 June 1947, RG 260 Prop. Div., Ardelia Hall, MCCP, Box 479, NARA.

RG 239 M1944 Reel 127 NARA. 

Photo credits

Hans Frank

Kajetan Mühlmann

Wawel castle

29 November 2022

What happened to Raphael's "Portrait of a Young Man"?

by Marc Masurovsky

Portrait of a Young Man

What happened to Raphael Santi's “Portrait of a Young Man” which belongs to the world-renown collection of the Cracow-based Czartoryski princely family? The now-iconic painting remains the poster child for WWII plundered “treasures.” Its handlers pulled off a world-class vanishing act in the early days of May 1945 as US troops were closing in on the South Bavarian compound of Hans Frank, by then former governor-general of German-occupied Poland--the last known location of the Raphael.

In the coming weeks, the plunderedart blog will devote a series of informative pieces on various aspects of the disappearance of the Raphael painting and the global search for it.

We will highlight:

-two individuals who were “that close” to the painting up to the days before its disappearance—Eduard Kneisel and Wilhelm Ernst von Palézieux;

-Hans Frank who was governor-general of German-occupied Poland;
Hans Frank awaiting trial

-the US army units that raided Hans Frank’s compound at Neustadt am Schliersee in early May 1945;

-Ardelia Hall, who served as “Fine Arts and Monuments Adviser to the Office of International 
stopped searching for the Raphael;

-Geoges Wildenstein, owner of the internationally-known Wildenstein & Co., Inc.;

Georges Wildenstein

-the Czartoryski family, rightful owner of the Raphael;

-the leadership of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, including former "Monuments Men"--James J. Rorimer, Theodore Rousseau and James Plaut.

And we will pick apart the sequence of events leading to the disappearance of the painting and the post-1945 search for it.

It is a story for the ages. It attests to how easy it is for an imposing work of art like the “Portrait of A Young Man” to  be there one instant and gone the next.  It has remained out of sight since May 4, 1945, the estimated date of its disappearance.

Sources and photo credits:

Ardelia Hall

Georges Wildenstein

Hans Frank

Monuments Men and Women Foundation

20 November 2022

Anthony van Dyck and The Music Man

Portrait of Paulus Pontius,  Anthony van Dyck

by Marc Masurovsky

Adolphe Schloss spent the last thirty years of his life painstakingly assembling a collection of Old Master paintings—Dutch, Flemish, German, Italian, Spanish and French. When he died on New Year’s Eve of 1910-1911, Adolphe Schloss had collected more than 330 paintings. His widow and children took care of the collection until it was time to send it to safety at the approach of war in August 1939. Four years later, a commando of French and German agents stormed the site where the paintings were hidden at the Château de Chambon in Laguenne, Corrèze. They seized all the paintings and brought them to Paris for “processing.”

After they reached their destination on 10 August 1943, representatives of the Vichy government, senior officials from the Louvre, and German officials proceeded with the dismemberment of the confiscated collection. The Louvre snatched 49 paintings for its permanent collection while 262 paintings were sold manu militari to Hitler’s Linz Museum project, and 22 paintings served as a “finder’s fee” for the person who denounced the collection’s whereabouts, Jean-François Lefranc. The 262 paintings were shipped to Munich for storage at the Führerbau from which they were stolen between 29 April and 2 May 1945, under the very noses of American troops. One of those paintings was the Portrait of a gentleman-Paulus Pontius by Anthony van Dyck.

Before Adolphe Schloss acquired the work by 1896, Paulus Pontius had changed hands numerous times and travelled throughout Western Europe and the United Kingdom. Its earliest recorded owner was Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga (1690-1756), who held the painting until his death in 1756. Then it conveyed to Cardinal Luigi Valenti Gonzaga (1725-1808), Rome, until 1763 when an art dealer, Hendrick de Leth (1703-1766) acquired it. From there, the painting crossed the Channel and ended up at Peper Harow in Surrey, England with the Midleton Family (we think). It remained in Surrey until 1851 after which time it migrated to London into the hands of Wynn Ellis (1790-1875). By 1896, London-based P. & D. Colnaghi sold Paulus Pontius to Charles Sedelmeyer in Paris (cat. 1896, no. 11, ill.). Sedelmeyer was one of Adolphe Schloss’ main art advisors. Naturally, Schloss snapped up the van Dyck portrait that same year and it remained with him and the Schloss family until its confiscation in 1943.

Munich 1945

MCCP card #46622

The massive unprecedented and largely unsolved art theft at the Führerbau (29 April-2 May 1945) netted over 1100 paintings. While American troops were completing the liberation of Munich and ridding the embattled city of its most fanatical armed Nazi resisters, Munich citizens were busily robbing Hitler’s administrative office building in search of food, alcohol, and anything fungible with which to survive in war-torn Munich.

Like most of the plundered paintings removed from the Führerbau, Paulus Pontius went quickly underground. It took three years for Americans to catch wind of its possible location. Until then, its whereabouts had remained unknown to American and French investigators connected with the Munich Central Collecting Point (MCCP), a central processing station for all objects recovered by Allied troops in Bavaria and processed for repatriation to their countries of origin.

Wolfgang von Dallwitz

The efforts to locate the missing painting took an unusual turn in February 1948 when Wolfgang von Dallwitz, of Biedersteinstrasse 21 (Munich) told Edgar Breitenbach that he had seen the painting in mid-November 1947 at “the apartment of a friend in Munich” together with two other paintings from the Schloss collection (a painting by Ludolf Backhuyzen /Schloss 3, a painting by Abraham van Beijeren /Schloss 8). A Dr. Irwin Sieger had allegedly shipped them from a railroad depot in Göttingen. [Breitenbach to Leonard, “Information concerning stolen Schloss paintings,” 25 February 1948, www.fold3.com], a fact he denied vigorously when questioned by Breitenbach.

Irwin (or Erwin) Sieger

Allied investigators were unsure of Sieger’s identity since they had received conflicting reports about the activities of a man bearing that name actively engaged in concealing and dispersing art looted during WWII and stolen from the Führerbau. Under questioning, Dr. Erwin Sieger lived at Olgastrasse 98 in Munich who was known as an “unscrupulous businessman” and a self-described “art amateur”, pledged to assist US authorities with their investigations into the whereabouts of the Schloss paintings and others. [Breitenbach to Leonard, “Information concerning stolen Schloss paintings,” 25 February 1948, www.fold3.com].
Lt. Hugoboom

The music man

In early 1947, while serving as a MFAA officer in Munich, Lt. Ray W. [Wayne] Hugoboom received Portrait of Paulus Pontius as “turned-in loot from the Führerbau” which Hugoboom characterized as a “gift” from the Oberbürgermeister (Lord Mayor) of Munich. However, instead of returning it to the MCCP as he should have, Hugoboom asked Franz Söker in Neu-Gilching if he could restore the damaged painting. It took him about two weeks. 

Once ready, Hugoboom hung the painting in his office. He even mentioned to his former secretary, Miss Koslowski, that he had bought it on the black market in Munich and not to tell his superior officer, Captain Rae of the MFAA. Lt. Hugoboom had a black crate made with metal sidings in which to house the painting, ostensibly for shipment. When confronted by Edgar Breitenbach, Lt. Hugoboom contradicted Koslowski’s assertion in a letter dated 3 June 1948. He delivered a contrite apology about his errant ways in the handling of the van Dyck. [Ray W. Hugoboom, School of Music, Indiana Unversity, Bloomington, IN, to Edgar Breitenbach, MFAA, OMGBavaria, 3 June 1948; Breitenbach to Hugoboom, 26 May 1948, www.fold3.com].

The recovery

On 6 April 1948, Edgar Breitenbach recovered Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Paulus Pontius at the studio of Alfred Koch on Holbeinstrasse 5 (or 43), Munich. According to Breitenbach, the van Dyck painting was the third most important painting from the Schloss collection. As part of his investigation into the circumstances surrounding the van Dyck painting, Breitenbach summoned for questioning Franz Söker to the MCCP on 14 April 1948. [Herbert Leonard, OMGB, to Franz Söker, 14 April 1948, RG 260 M 1946 Reel 137 NARA. www.fold3.com].

Ray Wayne Hugoboom’s defense

After Lt. Hugoboom left Munich in mid-1947 and returned to the United States, he received a promotion to become Assistant Professor of Choral Practice at the School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Hugoboom retold his saga with the van Dyck and declared that “the painting was located in an alley rapped [sic] up in old papers, thoroughly soaked and quite badly damaged.” He largely corroborated his official story—restoration, hanging in his room “for a short time before leaving” and leaving the painting with Alfred Koch “momentarily.” He was so busy with plans for his departure that he forgot to “arrange for [the] return” of the painting to the MCCP. [Wayne Hugoboom to Edgar Breitenbach, 10 May 1948, RG 260 M 1946 Reel 137 NARA].

Breitenbach sets the record straight

In his reply to “dear Hugoboom,” Breitenbach informed him that his letter of 10 May 1948 had caused “considerable embarrassment” at the MFAA. His recounting of the facts did not tally with the MFAA’s investigation.

Firstly, the mayor of Munich did not show him the van Dyck painting and three other paintings. It is Alfred Koch who advised him on the selection. Koch remembered the other paintings very well: two Breughel-like landscapes and a Dutch interior with woman and child. Koch did recall your hesitancy in accepting the gift but that you decided to take it, nevertheless, hoping to donate it “at a later date to some museum.”

Secondly, the story of the gift from the Mayor’s office may have been a hoax. Did Hugoboom partake in it? Unsure. But Alfred Koch and an accomplice by the name of Gillman were certainly in on it. Breitenbach noted that an apology to the Oberbürgermeister was in order. Gillman was also involved as a bit player in the mishandling of another painting from the Schloss collection, Portrait of a Lady, by Bartholomeus van der Helst.

The MFAA ultimately laid the responsibility for the van Dyck affair at Hugoboom’s feet and suggested that the only way to fix it was for him to “make a clean breast” to the MFAA staff. [Edgar Breitenbach to Hugoboom, 26 May 1948, RG 260 M 1946 Reel 137 NARA].  On 3 June 1948, Hugoboom formally apologized to “Mr. Breitenbach.” [Wayne Hugoboom to Mr. Breitenbach, 3 June 1948, RG 260 M 1946 Reel 137 NARA].

Final destination

Portrait of Paulus Pontius, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The van Dyck painting was repatriated to Paris on 3 June 1948 and restituted to the family of Adolphe Schloss on 6 July 1948. It was sold at Galerie Charpentier on 25 May 1949 (lot no. 17). Madeleine and Joseph R. Nash, an Australian couple living in Paris, acquired the painting. They died on 15 August 1977. Two years later, in keeping with their history of donations to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the painting was bequeathed anonymously to the Israel Museum.


RG 260 M 1947 Reel 137 NARA through www.fold3.com

ERR database

The Jewish Digital Cultural Recovery Project (JDCRP) Pilot Project

The Monuments Men and Women Foundation

19 November 2022

Two Schloss paintings

Portrait of Adrianus Tegularius, by Frans Hals

by Saida S. Hasanagic

The recovery of unrestituted paintings looted during the Holocaust that appear at international auctions with dubious provenances are examined in examples of Portrait of Adrianus Tegularius by Frans Hals (1582-1666) and Le Duo (Merry Company Making Music) by Joost Van Geel (1631-1698) which is featured in the upcoming Lempertz sale on 19 November 2022.

It is therefore important to begin with the Portrait of Adrianus Tegularius, previously part of the Adolphe Schloss Collection. Its provenance reads like a classic thriller and had led to a landmark criminal case in France involving Adam Williams, over the course of eleven years. Williams, a British-born New York-based Old Master dealer, learnt his trade at the Richard Green Gallery in London in the 1970s before relocating to the USA and eventually taking over the directorship of the Newhouse Galleries in New York City before setting up his eponymous dealership in 1998. However, to tell this story we have to start from the beginning.

The earliest recorded date in the provenance chain starts in Amsterdam in 1812 with the collector Jeronimo de Bosch IV when it was sold by Philippus van der Schley. In 1818, the painting was sold by Cornelis Sebille Roos as the property of J. Kerkhoven. In 1848, it was auctioned anonymously and acquired by the Amsterdam dealer / auctioneer Jeronimo de Vries. The Portrait of Tegularius then relocated to Germany and was recorded (undated) as the property of M. Unger in Berlin, then Richard Freiherr von Friesen in Dresden, until 1884, followed by Werner Dahl of Düsseldorf until 1901, when it was sold to Adolphe Schloss. The painting remained with the Schloss family after Adolphe’s death in 1910. It passed on to his wife Lucy Haas Schloss until her death in 1938 when it was inherited by their children.

On 16 April 1943, the Schloss collection, including the Hals, which comprised 333 paintings, was confiscated by Vichy officials and German security agents at the Château de Chambon in Laguenne (Corrèze). It was subsequently sold on 1 November 1943 as part of a group of 262 paintings from the confiscated Schloss collection to Hitler’s Führermuseum (or Linz Museum) Project. These 262 paintings were then transferred to the Führerbau, Hitler’s ad
Château de Chambon, Laguenne
ministrative office in Munich, on 24 November 1943 where they remained until unknown individuals broke into it on 29-30 April 1945 and emptied it of its contents, including the paintings, one of which was Hals’ Portrait of Tegularius.

It resurfaced in a private collection in Frankfurt am Main in 1952. The trail went cold until 1967 when it was offered in New York at the Parke-Bernet auction as lot no. 32, part of a deceased princess’ estate. It sold for US$ 32,500. The painting was offered for sale at Christie's in London on 24 March 1972 (lot no. 83) as part of the Ludvig G. Braathen Collection, where it was ‘bought in’ following French official efforts to halt the sale. On 28 March 1979, it sold at Sotheby's, London as lot no. 15 for £21,000. In 1982, it was reported to have been in a Dutch private collection located in West Germany. On 21 April 1989, the Hals changed hands again without an indication of its theft in the Christie’s catalogue  (lot no. 26) when it was bought for £110,000 by Adam Williams for the Newhouse Galleries in New York.

In September 1990, the painting was displayed at the Newhouse Galleries stand during the Biennale des Antiquaires at Grand Palais in Paris. It was recognised by Jean Demartini, one of the Schloss heirs, who immediately informed the Paris prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor started a criminal inquiry which led to Williams’ indictment and the painting’s seizure by French authorities. The investigating magistrate (Juge d’Instruction) closed the criminal case based on the lack of bad faith on the part of Williams. The Schloss heirs appealed the decision and the Court (Chambre d’Accusation) confirmed the decision of the investigating magistrate that: a) a settlement of 3,812,000 francs had been reached between some of the Schloss heirs and the German government in 1961, as confirmed in the letter to the French government on 24 April 1961; and b) Williams bought the painting in good faith at fair market price at Christie’s in London.

A protracted legal battle continued whereby the prosecutor’s office appealed the decision to the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) on 4 June 1998, which in turn reversed the decision of the lower court and returned the case to the Versailles “Chambre d’Accusation” to be re-examined. Effectively, the French Supreme Court established principles that were to be used as future guidelines: 1) the settlement between some Schloss heirs and the German government did not bar any subsequent criminal proceedings, as the settlement did not stop the public prosecutor from pursuing a criminal case based on the same facts, unless a specific law prevented it and the Supreme Court did not find any such law; 2) the settlement is only binding for the Schloss heirs who signed it, and not for the ones who were not a party to it; 3) the settlement with the German Government does not affect any criminal claims that the Schloss family might wish to raise against the Nazis who committed the crime; and finally an important point 4) the absence of bad faith on the part of Williams was not established.

The “Tribunal Correctionnel” at Nanterre indicated that the painting and its provenance were outlined in Collections World Directory published in 1979, stating that the painting was stolen and belonged to the Schloss Collection. It was pointed out that the painting was listed in the French “Répertoire des biens spoliés” (1947) and in the Frans Hals catalogue raisonné published by Seymour Slive (no. 207, 1974), where it was again documented as stolen. The Court adjudicated that a professional dealer, and a reputable Old Master specialist such as Williams, could not claim ignorance and should had done his due diligence by independently researching the painting and not relying on the incomplete provenance from the auction catalogue. As any committed art market professional, he would have found out that the painting was subject to a claim. To further hamper his defence, Williams initially claimed that he had never heard of the Schloss Collection, but had previously confided to another dealer that the painting had been sold several times at auction although it was stolen during the Second World War. This case strongly reiterates that the burden of proof is on the art professionals to prove their bona fide purchase. In addition, this means that indemnification of the Jewish families for their material losses due to looting does not constitute a limitation to subsequent criminal action based on the same facts. 

On 6 July 2001, the Court sentenced Williams to an eight-month suspended prison sentence for possession of artwork looted during the Second World War, and the painting was restituted to the family. Pierre-François Veil, the family’s lawyer, was certain that this landmark ruling would set a precedent that would not only apply to private dealers but to museums and galleries as well. As such, the decision sent a clear message to dealers and auction houses to improve the transparency of their activities, rendering it irrelevant whether they are just mere agents.

Twenty-two years later, Joost van Geel’s Le Duo (Merry Company Making Music), is featured at a Lempertz auction in Cologne on 19 November 2022 (Auction 1209 - Paintings, Drawings Sculpture 14th -19th Centuries) as lot no. 1569, with an estimate of €20,000-30,000. Dr. Walther Bernt had authenticated the work in 1976. The painting remains unrestituted. We have a limited knowledge about the history of this particular painting. The earliest date in its provenance starts with 23 June 1820 at the auction of the estate of Benjamin West, of Royal Academy fame. It was then acquired by a private collection (Perkins), probably in Paris, then by Adolphe Schloss at an unknown date. The van Geel painting shares the same post-confiscation fate as that of the Hals. However, it is alarming that Lempertz does not offer any provenance to the painting, apart from the Walther Bernt certificate.
van Geel painting, 19 November 2022 Lempertz sale

The link to the Lempertz online bid has been removed but the artwork’s details are still available in the auction catalogue, a sign that the German auction house has been made aware of the painting’s troubled past. Since 2001, the artworld has become more sensitive to the Second World War claims. As for the auction houses, hiding behind art-historical certificates and not producing any relevant history of well-documented objects should send clear red flags to any agent, buyer and collector.

More about the author

Saida S. Hasanagic, MA, is an art historian based in London, England. She is an independent scholar specialising in provenance research, art crime and its prevention from perspectives of art history, art business and international relations. Saida worked as a provenance researcher for the JDCRP Foundation: The Pilot Project – The Fate of the Adolphe Schloss Collection. Her main areas of interest are the Second World War plunder and cultural crimes committed in conflicts since then, notably in the former Yugoslavia with focus on spoliation and restitution in Bosnia-Herzegovina. 


Anglade, Leila. “Art Law and the Holocaust: The French Situation.” Art Antiquity and Law, Volume IV, Issue 4, December 1999, pp. 302-311.

Anglade, Leila. "The Portrait of Pastor Adrianus Tegularius by Franz Hals: The Schloss Case before the French Criminal Courts.” Art Antiquity and Law, Volume VIII, Issue 1, March 2003, pp. 77-87.

Campfens, Evelien (ed.). Fair and Just Solutions. Eleven International Publishing. 2015. The case is mentioned briefly as the footnote 3 on page 153, by Norman Palmer in Chapter 7: The Best We Can Do? pp. 153-185.

Demartini v Williams, 18th Chamber, Tribunal Correctionnel, Nanterre, 6 July 2001. (unpublished)

“Dealer guilty of handling Nazi art.” BBC News. Friday, 6 July 2001.

Giovannini, Teresa. “The Holocaust and the looted art.” Art Antiquity and Law, Volume 7, Issue 3, September 2002, pp. 263-280.

Melikian, Souren, “Buyer Beware: An Art World Nightmare Worthy of Kafka: The Mystery of a Looted Portrait.” The New York Times. 1 September 2001.

Slive, Seymour. Frans Hals, Catalogue Raisonné. London: Phaidon Press, 1974.

Other sources

Adam Williams Fine Art

ERR database

HALS (Frans) Anvers, 1581/85 - Haarlem, 1666. Portrait du Pasteur Adrianus Tegularius


Joost van Geel as Merry Company Making Music, Lempertz, 19 November 2022, Auction 1209 - Paintings, Drawings Sculpture 14th -19th Centuries, Cologne, lot no.1569, estimate € 20,000-30,000


GEEL. (Joost Van) Rotterdam, 1631 - id., 1698. Le Duo.


18 November 2022

Walther Bernt, authenticator of looted paintings

"Merry company making music," by Jost van Geel

by Claudia Hofstee

Many art historians who were caught up in the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust threw their lot with the Nazis only to turn their coats and cooperate with the victorious Allies after 1945, providing them with the same skills and expertise that they had to their Nazi overseers. One of them was Walther Bernt who was active in Czechoslovakia and Germany.

On 30 January, 1976, the German art historian Walther Bernt (1900-1980) produced a certificate of authenticity for a painting by Joost van Geel, Merry company making Music, which the Cologne-based Lempertz auction house is scheduled to sell on 19 November 2022 (lot no. 1569). This painting was stolen from the collection of the late Adolphe Schloss and has not been restituted to his heirs. Bernt was familiar with the Schloss Collection­–one of the best-known collections of Old Masters in Western Europe at the time. His failure to report the existence of this unrestituted painting to the French authorities illustrates his complicity in the post-1945 dispersal of Nazi looted art. He became the “go-to guy” for these certificates and because of his reputation in the art world, nobody questioned the provenance of the works he authenticated. Who was Walther Bernt?

Walther Bernt is famous for authoring a four-volume monograph entitled “17th century Dutch painters” (Niederländischen Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts (1948-1962)”. He and his wife Ellen (1913-2002) became international experts on 17th century Dutch and Flemish painters. However, a dark shadow hangs over Bernt’s legacy. Born in Krumau (Český Krumlov, Czechoslovakia), he became an art consultant and dealer in the 1930s and from at least 1937 he worked as an editor of auction catalogs. He advised the prominent Jewish industrialist Frank Petschek of Aussig for whom he acquired a number of works of art. After the German takeover of Czechoslovakia and the imposition of a Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Bernt served as an appraiser for the Gestapo in Prague for art collections confiscated from Czech Jews before they were sent to death camps. Bernt also offered his services to Hans Posse (1879-1942) in October 1940 as he was building up a massive art collection to be housed in Hitler's Führermuseum.

Not long after, Bernt turned up as a cataloguer for the Nazi art dealer Hans W. Lange (1904-1945) at Alois Miedl's (1903-1970) Berlin auction on 3-4 December 1940 which was selling works of art seized from the Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940). Bernt continued to advise private collectors like Hans-Werner Habig (1921-1954) from Oelde for whom he bought a painting by Joost de Momper, Stretch landscape with corn crop. [the painting now hangs at the Museum Abtei Liesborn des Kreises Warendorf (Germany) and is listed on the German Lost Art Database. The painting was previously in a private collection in Aussig in 1938.] 

After the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945, Bernt collaborated with Allied officials by identifying looted works of art recovered by Allied forces. Although he did not disclose his wartime involvement in looting activities, postwar documents suggest that the Allied forces had an inkling of Bernt’s work with the Gestapo in Prague. The Bernt family lived in Munich where he produced numerous certificates of authenticity for art dealers and auction houses until his death in 1980, after which his widow Ellen continued his work. As looted art flooded the postwar art market, many experts and dealers issued certificates to manufacture or hide provenance information, such as removing labels from the backs of paintings. The certificate conveyed a certain sense of legality and value to the works. Anyone looking closely at the certificates provided by Walther Bernt can see that oftentimes they do not mention any provenance and mask the dubious origin of the works.

Führerbau, Munich, site of theft of van Geel painting, 1945

During WWII, the Nazis valued art historians and used their services to legitimize their art seizures and appraise them. André Schoeller (1879-1955) is a good example of this; he was an art dealer and appraiser for Hôtel Drouot, he appraised confiscated paintings for the ERR in Paris and sold pictures to several German museums and worked closely with Nazi dealers (e.g., Hildebrand Gurlitt, 1895-1956). Besides the connoisseurship, art historians’ knowledge of collectors and their collections made it possible for Nazis to acquire many artworks. Some of the better-known art historians who were involved with the Nazis during the war were Max. J. Friendländer (1867-1958), Vitale Bloch (1900-1975) and Eduard Plietzsch (1886-1961). Like Bernt, many of these art historians hardly suffered any consequences for their wartime collaboration with Nazi officials.

More research is required about Bernt and his post-war activities and his network. Evidence can in all probability be found at the “Walther and Ellen Bernt collection”, which contains (exhibition) catalogs, card catalogs, and photographs of works of art (published and unpublished). Who knows what else we will find?

A note about the author

Claudia Hofstee MA, studied art history and graduated from Utrecht University in 2018. Specialized in 16th- and 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings. Worked as a provenance researcher for the JDCRP: The Pilot Project-The Fate of the Adolphe Schloss Collection. Working currently as an independent provenance researcher for the Mauritshuis in The Hague and is working on a collection catalogue for a private collection.

Hans Posse

Alois Miedl

Printed and Digital Sources:

www.fold3.com: RG 260 M1946 roll 10, NARA; RG 260 M1946 roll 121, NARA; RG 260 M149 roll 5, NARA; RG 260 M1946 roll 49, NARA; RG 260 M1947 roll 49, NARA; RG 260 M1946 roll 135.

Bernt, Walther. Die Niederländischen Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts, 3 vol. Munich, 1948-1962.

Flick, Caroline. Verwertungskampagne. Beobachtungen zur niederländischen Kunsthandlung Goudstikker-Miedl, Verwertungskampagne (March 2022).

Führmeister, Christian and Hopp, Meike. Rethinking Provenance Research, Getty Research Journal, vol. 11, issue 1 (2019), pp. 213-231.

Oosterlinck, Kim. Gustave Cramer, Max. J. Friedländer, and the value of Expertise in the Arts, Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics, Vol. 3 Nr. 1 (2022), pp. 19-56.

Digital art market and art history sources

08 November 2022

Dangling participles

By Marc Masurovsky

There are so many mysteries and unresolved issues rooted in the twelve-year reign of the National Socialists (30 January 1933-9 May 1945) that we cannot keep up with them. The research is tedious and it involves searching for evidence in multiple archives on both sides of the Atlantic. Costs, time, resources often bring exciting research projects to a grinding halt. Maybe some enterprising and courageous historians and sleuths will resolve some of these open cases, sooner than later, so that we can close them for good for the sake of posterity and historical truth. 

Here are some of these “dangling participles” with a special focus on the Greater German Reich and the territories it occupied or annexed:

Generally speaking:

-where are the contents of the studios and residences of artists which were systematically ransacked and plundered across continental Europe? Who were they? Where did they live and work? It’s too easy to say that everything was destroyed or that they were unimportant. That’s the lame way of discouraging efforts to uncover their fate.



-where are the original inventories of objects looted in Paris from Jewish owners and then transferred to the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume? The earliest extant inventories begin in mid-1941. Their discovery will fill major gaps in our understanding of what was looted, where, when, by whom, and from whom in German-occupied France. One credible lead is that these inventories may be sitting in a London archive since British forces liberated Tanzenberg, the ERR depot that housed many libraries, archival materials, and administrative files produced by ERR officials in occupied countries. Inventories drawn up by the ERR in France were found at Tanzenberg.


Jose Hessel, by Vuillard

-what happened to Jos Hessel’s collection? Although he and his wife died months apart between 1941 and 1942, there are no archival traces of the contents of the Hessel collection.



Jeu de Paume, Paris

-how many “degenerate” works of art survived the purge at the Jeu de Paume in summer of 1943? We counted 676. None survived according to Rose Valland, although about 20 have been restituted since the end of WWII. Where are the others?



Chateau de Rastignac, Dordogne, France

-were any works “rescued” from the Castle of Rastignac, country home of the Bernheim-Jeune family near Bordeaux before SS troops set the castle ablaze on 30 March 1944?

April-May 1945


Present-day castle of Nikolsburg/Mikulov

-how many looted objects were brought to the castle of Nikolsburg (now Mikulov) in north-central Czechoslovakia) between fall of 1943 and early 1945? How many survived the blaze of April 1945 triggered by severe fighting between Soviet and German troops? Of these, how many remained in postwar Czechoslovakia? How many went to the Soviet Union?


Inside the Führerbau, Munich

-where are the 1000+ looted paintings stored at the Führerbau in Munich which were stolen by unknown parties in the closing hours of April 1945 while American troops were liberating the city?

Flakturm, Berlin

-did any items survive the fires at the Flakturm (Berlin zoo) in the early hours of May 1945? Did the Soviets take them?

Neuhaus am Schliersee (Southern Bavaria)

Hans Frank residence, Schoberhof, Neuhaus

-what exactly happened at the Hans Frank compound in early May 1945 at Neustadt south of Munich? We know that unknown parties spirited away the “Portrait of a Young Man” by Raphael and, since then, it was never to be seen again.


--what happened to the Judaica stored inside the so-called “Hungarian Gold Train” after US forces intercepted it in May 1945? The only credible lead is that the Judaica may have been transferred “erroneously” to Vienna.


Ante Topic Mimara

-is there a detailed inventory of the works and objects purloined by Ante Topic Mimara? where did these end up?

Soviet Union

-where are the inventories for the so-called “Trophy Art” removed by Soviet troops from the territories that they freed of Nazi/Fascist forces? Will the Russians ever share them? Will we ever see these objects? Or are they rotting away in dank cellars, mine shafts, monasteries, barracks and other improvised storage areas scattered across the former Soviet Union?


-what happened to the more than 4000 works of art abandoned by the Nazis at the Jeu de Paume shortly before Paris was liberated? Did the French authorities inventory them? How many of these works were produced by Jewish artists?

09 May 2022

Looking for Mrs. Zale

by Marc Masurovsky

Why Mrs. Zale?

Ages ago, I stumbled on a message dated New Year’s Eve (31 December) 1944 sent by a Parisian art dealer, D. Kellermann, to Ladislas Segy, a Hungarian artist living in New York. In his note, which was distributed by the British censorship authorities in May 1945 Kellermann described rather glibly Mrs. Zale’s fate. He let Segy know that she and her son had been arrested and “deported in sealed boxcars” (how he came about that detail is not known…). The Gestapo seized their property in Nice as well as that of their friend, Mrs. Berger, which included 10 millions (no currency given) in art works. Mr. D. Kellermann, when visiting Mrs. Berger’s Nice residence, found paintings by Gondouin “of poor quality.”

A search of deportation lists for Jews arrested in Nice and surrounding areas in 1943 and 1944 and transferred to Drancy in Paris did not produce any familiar names that might confirm Kellermann’s assertion.

Similarly, there are no postwar claims recorded for either Mrs. Berger or Mrs. Zale. Unable to confirm or infirm Kellermann’s statement to Segy, the search for more information about Mrs. Zale, her son and Mrs. Berger reached an impasse.


An article published in a Hungarian “magazine” called “Artmagazin Online” and written by Gergely Barki, a researcher at the National Gallery in Budapest, Hungary, provided some new elements to clear up some of the fog hanging over the Berger/Zale riddle.

In 2019, Gergely Barki met with Cyla [Csaba Kajdi]—a Hungarian contemporary artist with a huge following on social media—who turned out to be the story’s unwitting gatekeeper.

Cyla’s [Csabad Kadji]’s great-grandfather was Rezso Balint. Barki wanted to know more about the Balint family’s history in interwar France.

Rezso was a Hungarian Jewish artist who had frequented the likes of Amadeo Modigliani in whose studio he had slept several times. Rezso’s brother, Adalbert (or Belá) operated “an important gallery in Paris” using the name Adalbert Berger. In 1912, Balint had met “Juliska Windt (later to be Mamika)[ Juliska (aka Júlia Windt, aka Júlia Bálint (?), aka Julia Berger, aka Julia Kellermann)]/, who was originally from the Nyírség region of Hungary. Juliska was Rezso’s wife until she left him to strike a romantic relationship with Dezso Kellermann, her old flame from Kecskemet whom she had rejected in 1912.

Adalbert [Bela] Berger was also an art collector who amassed works by modernists like Modigliani, Braque, Delaunay, Gondouin, and Czóbel. He died in 1931.

Once the Nazis had taken over more than half of France, they requisitioned Jewish-owned businesses including Julia Berger’s gallery. She fled Paris with Dezso Kellermann, seeking refuge in Nice which, at that time, was occupied by the Italian Army. Julia Berger found an apartment in the Cimiez section of Nice. According to Barki, she managed to elude arrest and deportation by the Nazis. She waited until 1959 to tie the knot with Dezso. His son, Michel Kellermann, has become a fixture in the Parisian art world. establishing himself as a world expert on André Derain, about whose work he compiled a catalogue raisonné.

Work in progress

The one—page document detailing an exchange between D. Kellermann and Ladislas Segy on New Year’s Eve 1944 which prompted this short article is easier to understand using the Barki blog piece about the Balints, Bergers, and Kellermanns in France. It has shed some contextual ight on several individuals featured in the intercepted correspondence.

The author of the message, D. Kellermann, is confirmed as Dezsó Kellermann, a Hungarian Jewish art dealer from Kecskemet whose family had settled in Paris before or during WWI. His progeny, Michel Kellermann (not mentioned in the note) is a highly-respected Paris art expert and dealer in his own right.

Mrs. Kale still remains a mystery to us, despite the latter-day revelations from Mr. Barki. Nevertheless, we can surmise that: 1/ Kale is her married name,  2/ she might also be of Hungarian Jewish extraction and 3/ she owned a valuable art collection which was plundered in Nice before her arrest and that of her son.

Mrs. Berger [Juliska Balint/Berger/Kellermann] is of Hungarian Jewish extraction, and connected by marriage and kinship ties to the Balint and Kellermann families. She was active as an art dealer in Paris and perhaps even in Nice. During one of Barki’s interview sessions, Cyla’s mother, Annamaria Basti, a denizen of the French Riviera, had shown him letterhead clearly indicating “Galerie d’Orsel, 16, rue d’Orsel, Paris, Julia Berger.”

For now, we have not found any trace of a postwar claim submitted to the French authorities by either Mrs. Berger, Mrs. Zale or Mr. Kellermann acting on their behalf. Hence, we cannot ascertain the extent of their material losses including art works and objects. An apparent contradiction also needs to be sorted out between Dezsó Kellermann’s assertion that Mrs. Zale, her son and Mrs. Berger were arrested and carted off in “sealed boxcars”, on the one hand, and Mr. Barki’s statement that Mrs. Berger, thanks to her ingenuity and help from a local resident of Nice, was able to avoid arrest and deportation.

Perhaps, the answers lie in Mr. Kellermann’s archives, wherever they may be since he and his family were the closest to Juliska/Julia Berger and Adalbert Balint aka Berger.

Enclosures: Source documents regarding Dezsó Kellermann, Mrs. Zale, Mrs. Berger, and the New Year's Eve 1944-1945 British intercept. These all came from fold3.com, a digital snapshot of various collections stored at the National Archives in College Park, MD.