A prized painting by Russian master Wassily Kandinsky, sold under duress during World War II, has been returned to the descendants of its former Jewish owners.
oil painting, Bild mit Häusern (Painting with houses), was just one of the valuable art collections inherited by Robert Lewenstein and his wife Irma Klein, which at one time also included works by Van Gogh, Renoir and Rembrandt. But the couple were forced to auction Kandinsky’s painting in October 1940 as they fled the Nazis five months after they invaded the Netherlands.
Records show that the director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam bought the Kandinsky for a fraction of its value at the time. Het Parol reports: “He paid 160 guilders for it – a pittance of the original value at the time, 2000 to 3000 guilders.”
The 1909 painting of a figure in a colorful, abstract landscape is now worth an estimated $20 million.
His transfer to the Lewenstein heirs on Monday ends a nine-year dispute.
“As a city, we bear a great responsibility in dealing with the untold suffering and injustice inflicted on the Jewish population during World War II,” Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Touria Meliani said in a statement. declaration.
“To the extent that something can be restored, we as a society have a moral duty to act accordingly. This certainly applies to the many works of art that were in the possession of Jewish citizens and were looted by the Nazis or were otherwise lost to the owners,” Meliani added.
A first attempt to recover the multimillion-dollar artwork was rejected by the Dutch Restitution Committee in 2018 following a five-year investigation. Committee adjudicates on ownership of artefacts looted during Nazi occupation
An appeal of the decision in 2020 also failed. But a year later, a second committee, formed by the Dutch government, decided to reassess the case. This led to further discussions between the Lewenstein heirs and the municipality.
“The Municipality and the Heirs agree that the Restitution does justice to the principle of returning works of art that were involuntarily removed from possession during World War II due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime to the heirs of the then owners when possible,” the museum said Monday.
James Palmer of Mondex Companywho is assisting with restitution negotiations, added: “Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the Lewenstein family’s journey to achieve the justice, dignity and respect they have rightly sought for so many years. years.”