Home Arts German Restitution Commission Recommends Bavarian Bank Return Kandinsky Painting to Heirs of Former Jewish Owners

German Restitution Commission Recommends Bavarian Bank Return Kandinsky Painting to Heirs of Former Jewish Owners

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After years of legal battles, a German commission this week recommended that a Wassily Kandinsky painting in the possession of a Bavarian state-owned bank be returned to descendants of the Jewish family who owned the painting before World War II. world.

by Wassily Kandinsky A colorful life (1907) was once owned by Dutch art collector Emanuel Lewenstein, Jewish manager of a large sewing machine factory. Lewenstein and his wife Hedwig had a large art collection and acquired A colorful life in 1927. In 1933, after Lewsetin’s death, his wife loaned the painting to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Both Lewensteins died in the 1930s and their two children fled the Netherlands shortly before Nazi Germany invaded in 1940.

That same year, the painting was donated by the Stedelijk Museum and sold at auction in Amsterdam. Bayerische Landesbank, which is largely owned by the Bavarian government, purchased the painting in 1972. Since then, A colorful life was loaned to the Städtische Galerie in Munich.

Germany’s Advisory Commission, which deliberates on cases of restitution of property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, said on Tuesday the painting should be returned to three descendants of the Lewensteins’ children, who jointly sued Bayerische Landesbank in New York in 2017. They claimed A colorful life was sold without the permission of their relatives and that the painting belonged to them by right. That year, the plaintiffs said the painting had an estimated value of $80 million. by Kandinsky record at auction is £37m, set last March when Murnau with Church II (1910) sold at Sotheby’s London. This semi-abstract cityscape has been the subject of a 12-year review restitution battle before that came up for auction.

Bayerische Landesbank suggested A colorful life could have been voluntarily auctioned off by the first wife of Lewenstein’s son during divorce proceedings, and that it would be impossible to determine whether the property of the Jewish people was seized so early during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Down. The bank also said the Lewenstein family did not file for restitution immediately after the war, suggesting the sale was voluntary.

Although the commission could not conclusively determine who organized the auction of the Lewenstein estate at the 1940 auction, it stated in its report “there are numerous indications that it was was a case of seizure as a result of Nazi persecution”.

Although the commission’s decision is not legally binding, the bank’s largest shareholder, the Bavarian state government, told the Lewenstein family heirs in 2017 that Bayerische Landesbank “will unreservedly accept” the decision. of the commission, according to Mondex Corporation, a Canadian firm that works with families to recover looted works of art and represents the Lewenstein heirs. Bayerische Landesbank did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The family has expressed interest in loaning the painting to another museum, Mondex founder James Palmer said.

Mondex previously worked with the Lewenstein heirs on the return of another work by Kandinsky, painting with houses (1909), which was sold at the same auction in Amsterdam in 1940 as A colorful life. The city of Amsterdam render this tablewhich had also hung in the Stedelijk Museum, after a endless legal dispute.

“Repair is important in many ways,” says Palmer. “She offers a solution that gives people who have suffered a sense of dignity, hope and justice. They are very important to applicants, and I believe they are in the long-term interests of possessors”.

About 100 paintings were looted from the Lewensteins during the war that Mondex is working to find, Palmer says.

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