Drawing Lost Due to Nazi Persecution Returned to Feldmann Estate
April 1, 2009
New York, N.Y.: The New York State Banking Department’s Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) today announced the restitution of a drawing, attributed to a follower of 16th-century Flemish artist Tobias Verhaecht, to the heirs of its original owner, Dr. Arthur Feldmann. The drawing, City on a Mountain Lake, was looted by the Nazis in 1939 and is being returned today by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Uri Peled, grandson of Dr. Feldmann.
Restitution efforts of the 18.1 x 27.9 cm brown pen and brown wash drawing were led by the HCPO. “I am honored that the Banking Department was able to play a vital role in the restitution of this work of art,” New York State Banking Superintendent Richard H. Neiman said. “Nearly 70 years after it was looted this drawing will finally be restored to its rightful owners. I would like to congratulate Mr. Peled and his family on this resolution.”
Dr. Feldmann, a prominent Jewish lawyer from Brno, Czechoslovakia, was also a well-known collector of Old Master drawings. His collection consisted of over 750 drawings by Dutch, Italian and French 16th and 17th century artists. On March 15, 1939, the Nazis invaded Brno and requisitioned the Feldmann villa for use as officer quarters and looted all the Feldmann’s household goods and possessions, including the drawings collection. Like the fate of many European Jews at the time, Dr. Feldmann lost his livelihood, all of his property, and eventually his life, after being arrested, tortured, and suffering a stroke. His wife Gisela was sent to Theresienstadt and later perished at Auschwitz. Dr. Feldmann’s two sons, fled Czechoslovakia in 1940, and survived the war.
Uri Peled approached the HCPO with his initial research that identified the “Verhaecht” drawing in a catalogue for the 1975 exhibition Pieter Breughel d. Ä. Als Ziechner: Herkunft und Nachfolgel at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preussischer Kulturbesitz (The National Museums in Berlin – The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), to which the Metropolitan Museum lent the drawing. The HCPO contacted The Metropolitan Museum of Art about the provenance of the drawing. The Museum promptly confirmed that the drawing was in the Museum’s collection and provided the HCPO with all of the relevant information in their files concerning the work.
The HCPO and Mr. Peled provided the Museum with information and documentation showing that the Nazis looted the drawing from Dr. Feldmann in 1939. Acknowledging that Dr. Feldmann lost possession of the drawing due to Nazi persecution, the Museum agreed that it should be returned to his heirs as its rightful owner. The Museum acquired the work in New York in 1947 and was unaware of its connection to Dr. Feldmann or that it was looted during the Holocaust.
“The Metropolitan Museum remains committed to ensuring that works of art which were looted by the Nazis are returned to their rightful owners,” stated Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Museum. “To this end, the Metropolitan Museum has conducted extensive provenance research on works in its collection and maintains a section of its website that lists, with images, European paintings in its collection having incomplete ownership histories during the era of World War II or that changed hands during those years. The Museum’s Collections Management Policy, which is also available on its website, commits the Museum to reviewing claims concerning Nazi looted art promptly and responsibly. We are pleased that Uri Peled came forward with evidence of his family’s ownership of this work, and also that we have had this opportunity to work with the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, with the result of seeing this work returned to its rightful home.”
Since the end of World War II, the heirs of Dr. Feldmann have tirelessly sought to recover his drawings collection. The German government denied the family’s post-war restitution claim because they could not show that the stolen drawings were in Germany. Over sixty years later, Dr. Feldmann’s grandson, Uri Peled, continues to seek to preserve his grandfather’s legacy and recover his looted drawings.
Uri Peled remarked, “It has been an honor to work with Rebecca Friedman of the HCPO, on this and other cases now in progress. She is a true professional, whose great researching abilities are extremely helpful. Her negotiations on this drawing with the Metropolitan Museum were very co-operative, enabling a swift restitution of this drawing.”
The HCPO 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 banks; unpaid proceeds of insurance policies issued by European insurers; and artworks that were lost, looted or sold under duress. The HCPO does not charge claimants for its services. To date, the HCPO has helped return over $137 million in bank claims, insurance claims, and other assets, and has assisted in securing the return of 30 works of art.
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 $2.2 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.