There’s good news for the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida, which will be able to keep an important piece of its collection, a Dutch Golden Age painting looted by Nazis.
First purchased by the Cummer from a New York gallery in 1962,, a striking still life, has been among the collection’s highlights ever since.
“In 2011, as part of our 50th anniversary, this painting was actually voted by our visitors as one of their 50 favorite paintings in the museum, so it means a lot to this community,” chief curator Holly Keris told First Coast.
Two years ago, the painting’s illicit history came to light: before the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker fled the country. He died at sea, but left behind a detailed inventory of his art collection, 1,400 pieces of which were stolen from his gallery by Nazi leader Herman Göring.
Although Vanitas was sold at Lempertz Auktion in Cologne in 1941, it is unclear how the painting made its way to the US.
When Goudstikker’s daughter-in-law, Marei Von Saher, traced the 17th century work to the Cummer, she called on the museum to return the painting. In April, the institution’s board of trustees voted to do just that.
The two parties have since reached an agreement allowing the Cummer to purchase the painting in part thanks to a gift from the family of Goudstikker, made in his memory.
“It is heartening to see museums like the Cummer do the right thing for Holocaust victims and their heirs. I am grateful to the Cummer for returning this painting to Jacques Goudstikker’s family,” said Von Saher . “We hope that the restitution of this work will lead other museums to act just as responsibly when faced with the discovery of Nazi-looted art in their collections.”
“It is with great pleasure that the Cummer announces this amicable settlement,” added director Hope McMath, also in an interview with News 4 Jax. “We are delighted that, thanks to the generosity of Goudstikker’s family, this important painting will stay at the Cummer.”
Though this particular restitution case has been settled, Jacques Goudstikker’s heirs are still working to track down the rest of his 1,400-piece collection.