Notable Restituted Collections and Works of Art

Christie’s works both in the art world and the restitution community to expand scholarship around the history of collecting and the art market as well as supporting the resolution of restitution claims for consigned artworks. We invite you to explore a few notable collections and artworks researched by Christie's Restitution team.

The Bloch-Bauer Klimts

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II

The restitution in 2006 by the Republic of Austria of three absorbing landscapes and two captivating portrait by Gustav Klimt — Birch Forest, Houses at Unterach on the Attersee, Apple Tree I, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II — marked the drawing to a close of a seven-year legal battle by the heirs of Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer.

Adele Bloch-Bauer had been an important patron of the artist and a leading figure in Viennese high society. Married to the industrialist and banker Ferdinand Bloch, together they formed an impressive collection of paintings and decorative arts. This collection was seized by the Nazi authorities in the days following the Austrian Anschluss in March 1938.

These five paintings were transferred to the Österreichische Galerie in Vienna, where they remained over the decades until their return. Four were offered at Christie's in New York in November 2006 and the iconic ‘golden’ portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I now hangs in the Neue Galerie, New York.

Sold pursuant to a settlement agreement
between the Cox Collection, the heir of Max Meirowsky
and heirs of Alexandrine de Rothschild 

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
Meules de blé

After having been owned by Theo and Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, as well as the painter and distinguished collector, Gustave Fayet, Meules de blé was acquired by Max Meirowsky (1866-1949).

Meirowsky was an industrialist, manufacturing isolators for the growing railway, automobile and electronics industries of the turn of the century, who lived first in Cologne and later in Berlin. From around 1910, Meirowsky amassed a substantial art collection encompassing French, German and Swiss Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as well as earlier works of art and decorative arts. He bought through key dealers of the time such as Cassirer and Thannhauser in Germany and Eugène Druet and Bernheim-Jeune in France. In 1913, Meirowsky purchased the luminous Meules de blé at the Galerie Druet in Paris and it became one of the crown jewels of his collection.

During the Nazi regime in Germany, Max Meirowsky faced anti-Jewish persecution, leading to the sale of art from his collection. In late 1938 Meirowsky fled Germany for Amsterdam and then on to Geneva. It was on this journey, that Meirowsky entrusted Meules de blé to the German émigré dealership Paul Graupe & Cie., then active in Paris.

Meules de blé then entered the Parisian collection of Miriam Caroline Alexandrine de Rothschild (1884-1965). Alexandrine, a student of medicine, had inherited part of her art collection from her father Edmond James de Rothschild (1845-1934) and was a respected collector in her own right, particularly of literary and musical manuscripts and first editions, as well as eighteenth century art. From the mid-1930s, Alexandrine de Rothschild acquired several paintings and works on paper by Post-Impressionist artists, including important works by Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Alexandrine fled to Switzerland. Her art collection in Paris, including Van Gogh’s Meules de blé, was confiscated by the Nazi regime during the Occupation. In the post-war years, Alexandrine sought to trace and recover her looted art collection and library, but while she was able to recover some works, many others remained missing, including Meules de blé.

Christie’s was honored to bring Meules de blé to auction pursuant to a settlement agreement between the Cox Collection, the heir of Max Meirowsky and heirs of Alexandrine de Rothschild in November 2021.

Property Restituted to the Heirs of
Baron Maximilian Von Goldschmidt-Rothschild

Baron Maximilian Von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, among his many business achievements, was a partner of the Frankfurt bank founded by his father, Benedikt Hayum Goldschmidt as well as being a partner with his sons of the Berlin bank A. Falkenberger (later Goldschmidt-Rothschild & Co.). Yet like many of his Rothschild in-laws, his true passion, and perhaps his most lasting legacy, was his collecting. Baron Maximilian Von Goldschmidt-Rothschild adopted the Rothschild name in 1901 after his father-in-law died, as Baron Wilhelm Carl von Rothschild (1828-1901) was the last male of the Frankfurt Rothschilds.

While the collections of Baron Maximilian Von Goldschmidt-Rothschild contained paintings by Rembrandt, Hals and other Dutch masters, it is the decorative arts, Limoges enamels, Italian maiolica, Meissen and Vienna porcelain and, above all, silver, that was the nucleus of his collection. On the occasion of Baron Maximilian’s 80th birthday in 1923, the celebrated art historian and art critic Dr. Adolph Donath wrote of Baron Maximilian’s Kunstkammer that ‘…only at Waddesdon, the British Museum, the Wallace Collection, Schloss Rosenborg [the Royal Danish collections] and the Green Vaults in Dresden can be found pieces of similar quality.’ Donath further noted that Baron Maximilian’s collection of silver animals was ‘unvergleichlich’ – unrivaled or without equal. It is not clear if the Silvered Bronze, Enameled Silver and Gilt-Bronze Elephant Automaton Clock, had belonged to Hannah Mathilde Baroness von Rothschild and Baron Wilhelm Carl von Rothschild, the parents of Baron Maximilian’s wife Minna Karoline (Minka) von Rothschild, as there are unconfirmed reports from the 1920s of the clock in the collection. But this seems unlikely, not only because this is undocumented, but it is much more probable that the Elephant Clock was purchased by Baron Maximilian himself over his many decades of intense collecting as he was specifically interested in this period of German Baroque silver and metalwork. And, as Donath mentions, particularly in figures of animals.

Immediately following the Nazi-sanctioned Novemberpogrome, better known as Kristallnacht, Baron Maximilian was forced to ‘sell’ his entire collection to the City of Frankfurt. The collection was purchased for just over 2.5 million Reichsmarks and, adding insult to injury, the funds were paid into a frozen account inaccessible to the family. A large part of the purchase price for the art collection went directly to the respective responsible tax offices, partly for the Judenvermögensabgab [the Jewish tax] to be paid by Maximilian himself and partly for the Judenvermögensabgabe as well as the Reichsfluchtsteuer [Reich Flight Tax] imposed on his son Albert.

After the war, the heirs of Baron Maximilian requested the return of the collection, the 1938 forced sale was eventually voided and much of the collection was returned to his heirs by February of 1949. Some of these restituted pieces were then sold at auction a year later in New York on March 10-11, 1950 – as described in a New York Times article “Art Nazis ‘Bought’ Will be Sold Here”. The Elephant Clock, was not among these treasures as it had left the collections of the Frankfurt Museum in an odd exchange that took place in the middle of the war. In 1943, a Frankfurt dealer, Carl Müller-Ruzika, traded to the Frankfurt Museum a ‘Louis XV Bronze Wall Clock‘ for von Goldschmidt-Rothschild’s clock. The von Goldschmidt-Rothschild clock then presumably entered the murky art market of the war and post-war period, these few years remain un-documented, and by the late 1940s the Elephant Clock was purchased the Dr. Baroness Irmgard von Lemmers-Danforth. The Dr. Baroness von Lemmers-Danforth was a legendary figure in the Hessian city of Wetzlar who amassed an outstanding collection of decorative arts which were all eventually gifted to Wetzlar’s Städtische Museen and exhibited in the Palais Papius.

The Elephant Clock was in the collections of the Städtische Museen from 1963 until 2021 when it was restituted to the heirs of Baron Maximilian, eighty-three years after it was seized from his collection, and sold at Christie’s in October 2021.

Old Master Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker

Salomon van Ruysdael, Ferry Boat with cattle on the River Vecht near NijenrodeFROM THE COLLECTION OF JACQUES GOUDSTIKKER
Salomon van Ruysdael (1600-1670)
Ferry Boat with cattle on the
River Vecht near Nijenrode

As Amsterdam’s leading Old Master art dealer and connoisseur, Jacques Goudstikker was renowned throughout Europe for his extensive collection. This prominence was to prove his undoing following the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands in May 1940. The dealer, his wife and young son fled for their lives to escape the war and the Nazis’ increasingly pernicious anti-Jewish measures. In Goudstikker’s absence, his gallery was ‘aryanised’ and over 1,300 works of art were confiscated by Hermann Göring and his associates.

Goudstikker did not survive the war. In the post-war years, his widow, Desi, managed to recover some of their spoliated property but much remained in the Dutch national collection. It was not until 2006, after many years of the family pressing their restitution claim, that the Dutch government returned over 200 pictures. Selected works were offered for sale through Christie’s in New York, London and Amsterdam in 2007.

The John and Anna Jaffé Collection

jaffe-turner-christies-restitution-imageFROM THE COLLECTION OF JOHN AND ANNA JAFFÉ
Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A. (1775-1851)
Glaucus and Scylla

John and Anne Jaffé were well-known figures in the English community in Nice who delighted in collecting wonderful art for their villa on the Promenade des Anglais. They focused primarily on British and Dutch art, although their collection included significant works by Turner and Gainsborough, Teniers and Van Ostade, Guardi and Goya.

John died in 1934, although Anna lived long enough to witness the occupation of France and the collaborationist policies of the Vichy government whose anti-Jewish measures led to the seizure of the Villa Jaffé and the confiscation and forced auction of the collection in 1943. The couple’s painting by Guardi, The Grand Canal Venice with the Palazzo Bembo, was selected for Hitler’s planned museum in Linz, but was recovered by the Allies and returned to France after the war, along with a handful of other paintings which entered the French collection of recovered works (the Musées Nationaux Récupération). The Guardi was eventually restituted to the family in 2005 by the French state and offered by Christie’s in London that July.

J.M.W. Turner’s Glaucus and Scylla was returned by the Kimbell Art Foundation in Fort Worth in 2006 and offered for sale at Christie’s in New York in April 2007, where it was re-acquired for the museum.