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Press Release
Brueghel Painting Restored to Stern Estate by Netherlands' Government

Old Master Painting Discovered by Holocaust Claims Processing Office
in Netherlands’ Origins Unknown Listings

Allegory of Earth and Water

New York, N.Y.:  The New York State Banking Department’s Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) and Concordia University announced today the restitution of the oil painting “Allegory of Earth and Water” to its rightful owners, the Estate of Dr. Max Stern. This painting is the eighth of several hundred listed in the claim filed by Dr. Stern’s estate to be recovered.

“The members of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, along with their partners at Concordia University, have worked diligently with the government of the Netherlands to ensure the successful restitution of this painting,” said Richard H. Neiman, Superintendent of Banks for New York State. “I am pleased that the our skilled researchers, which have helped thousands of Holocaust victims and their heirs over the years, was once again able to help provide some measure of closure to a claimant by rightfully restoring their property.”

The Old Master painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-1678) was first discovered by the HCPO in 2005 in the listings of The Netherlands’ Origins Unknown Agency. The agency is responsible for investigating the ownership of the paintings in the Nederlands Kunstbezit-collectie, or NK collection, which consists of works of art recuperated after World War II. The collection is in the custody of the Dutch government and is part of the Institut Collectie Nederland (ICN) of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences.

The HCPO submitted a claim to Ministry’s Restitutions Committee, which discovered that after the painting was removed from Dr. Stern’s possession in the 1930s, it surfaced in the collection of Jan Dik Jr., a Dutch art dealer who acted as a middleman for the Nazis. From Dik, the painting went to the Hamburg Kunsthalle museum from which the Allies recovered it and transferred custody to the Netherlands.

As a person of Jewish descent, Dr. Stern, owner of the Galerie Stern in Düsseldorf, did not fit the membership requirements of the Reich Chamber of Culture (RKK) and in 1935 was legally prohibited from buying and selling art in Germany. In September 1937, the RKK gave Dr. Stern the final order to immediately sell his gallery’s remaining inventory through a Nazi-approved RKK dealer, with the Gestapo forcing the liquidation shortly thereafter. The Restitutions Committee concluded that Dr. Stern had lost the Brueghel painting as a direct consequence of Nazi persecution and advised the Ministry to return the work.

As of next month, the painting will be moved to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Dr. Clarence Epstein, Director of Special Projects and Cultural Affairs at Concordia University, heads up the Max Stern Art Restitution Project and received the painting as the Estate’s representative.

The HCPO is a division for 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 more than $154 million in bank claims, insurance claims, and other assets, and has assisted in securing the return of 49 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 website at

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