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Painting Lost During Nazi Forced Sale Returned to Rightful Owners

Nicolas Neufchatel’s “Portrait of Jan van Eversdyck” Restituted to Max Stern Estate

February 27, 2007

New York, N.Y.:  The New York State Banking Department’s Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) announced today the return of a painting, “Portrait of Jan van Eversdyck” (1580) by Nicolas Neufchatel, to its rightful owner, the Estate of Max Stern.  This painting is one of more than 200 listed in an art restitution claim the Estate filed with the HCPO, all of which were lost by Dr. Stern at a forced sale at the Lempertz auction house in Cologne in 1937.  This is the second such painting to be returned to the Estate in five months. 

The Neufchatel painting had been part of the Yannick and Ben Jakober Foundation’s portrait collection in Mallorca, Spain when an image of it was discovered on the Foundation’s website.  The HCPO provided the Foundation with information about its original owner, the late Dr. Stern (a prominent Jewish art dealer and owner of Galerie Stern in Düsseldorf), and with documentation illustrating how the Nazis forced Dr. Stern to liquidate his gallery’s holdings in 1937, including the Neufchatel painting.  Until informed by the HCPO, the Foundation was unaware of the picture’s provenance.  Quickly recognizing that Dr. Stern had lost possession of the painting as a result of Nazi persecution, the Foundation acknowledged that the Estate was the rightful owner. 

Through engaging in an open and amicable dialogue, the Estate and the Foundation reached a creative solution.  The Neufchatel painting is protected by Spain’s cultural heritage laws, which prohibit the painting from leaving Spanish national borders without special permission.  Thus, the Jakober Foundation has transferred title to the painting to Dr. Stern’s Estate, but the Estate will keep the painting on permanent loan with the Foundation.

The Neufchatel painting was sold by Lempertz on three separate occasions: first, in 1937 at the forced liquidation sale of Galerie Stern, and again in 1977 and 1996.  But the painting’s connection to Dr. Stern and Galerie Stern was not listed in either the 1977 or 1996 Lempertz sales catalogues.  The 1996 purchaser of the Neufchatel painting donated it that same year to the Jakober Foundation. 

New York State Banking Superintendent Diana L. Taylor said, "The HCPO relies on open and constructive negotiation to achieve resolution for its claimants.  This agreement is a wonderful example of these principles in action.  We thank the Jakober Foundation and the Stern Estate for their cooperation and creativity, and hope other claims can be resolved with the same spirit of mutual aid.”

Dr. Clarence Epstein, from the Office of the President, Concordia University said, “In the five years since the Max Stern Art Restitution Project was launched, the Neufchatel recovery stands out because of the incredibly amicable and fair way in which the Jakober Foundation responded to and ultimately settled the claim. We are extremely grateful to the Foundation for their sensitivity and collaboration."

The Jakober Foundation was created in 1993 by Yannick Vu and Ben Jakober to promote the arts, and in particular to preserve and restore Spanish heritage.  The Foundation maintains 143 portraits of high-society European children painted from the 16th to 19th centuries.  About fifty of the Foundation’s pictures are permanently displayed in a large exhibition room in Mallorca, while the rest of the collection is routinely loaned to other museums.

The Nazi-forced closure of Galerie Stern, culminating with the 1937 sale—known as sale number 392 at Lempertz — is the focus of the traveling exhibition (Auktion 392 Reclaiming the Galerie Stern, Düsseldorf) opening at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York today. 

Dr. Stern’s father opened Galerie Stern in Düsseldorf in 1913.  Max Stern took over the gallery upon his father’s death.  In August 1935, Dr. Stern received notice that, as a person of Jewish descent, he did not fit the Reich Chamber of Culture’s (RKK) membership requirements and was legally prohibited from buying and selling art in Germany.  Dr. Stern’s repeated appeals to overturn this prohibition were futile.  In September 1937, the RKK ordered Dr. Stern to immediately sell his remaining inventory through a Nazi-approved RKK dealer.  On November 13, 1937, Dr. Stern liquidated the gallery’s stock (of more than 200 paintings) at Lempertz for a fraction of their market value.  Two months later, Dr. Stern fled Germany.  He ultimately settled in Montreal and became one of Canada’s most influential art dealers.  Upon his death in 1987, Dr. Stern bequeathed the bulk of his estate to three non-profit institutions: Concordia and McGill Universities (both in Montreal) and Hebrew University of Jerusalem (in Israel).
 
Nicolas Neufchatel (1527-1590), also called Lucidel, was born in Flanders and studied painting in Antwerp.  Neufchatel’s work dominated the local portraiture market in Nuremberg in the 1560s, where he painted many distinguished portraits, including the “Portrait of Jan van Eversdyck”.  The Portrait was painted in oil on panel in 1580, and depicts the intense, haughty gaze of an eighteen-year-old, wealthy burgher.  It was listed in the 1937 Lempertz catalogue as previously owned by a friend of the former Kaiser. 

The Holocaust Claims Processing Office is a division of the New York State Banking Department.  It was created in 1997 to help Holocaust victims and their heirs recover assets deposited in European banks; unpaid proceeds of European insurance policies; and artworks lost, looted or sold under duress.  The HCPO provides its services free of charge to claimants.  To date, it has received 4,773 claims from 45 states and 37 countries regarding Holocaust-era bank accounts, insurance policies and lost or stolen art. The HCPO has helped return more than $50 million in bank claims, more than $19 million in insurance claims, $5 million in other assets and settle 14 art claims.  The HCPO staff is comprised of lawyers, archivists, historians, political scientists, art historians and linguists.

Anyone who believes they may have a potential claim or who wishes to obtain additional information regarding the HCPO should call 1-800-695-3318 or log on to its Web site at www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/holocaust/hcpoindex.htm.

The New York State Banking Department is the regulator for all state-chartered banking institutions, virtually all of the United States offices of international banking institutions, all of the State’s mortgage brokers, mortgage bankers, check cashers, money transmitters and budget planners. The aggregate assets of the depository institutions supervised by the Banking Department are more than $1.5 trillion.

In addition to regulating banking institutions, the Banking Department is active in informing and educating all New Yorkers on banking matters. To contact the Banking Department, please call 1-877-BANK-NYS or visit our Web site at www.banking.state.ny.us.