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Latest findings in provenance research

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the painting “Boy at the Brook” (Knabe am Bach) was in the possession of Frankfurt consul Karl Kotzenberg, who sold the work in 1922 to the collection of Siegfried Buchenau in Schleswig-Holstein. His widow then sold the painting in 1939 to Munich art dealer Karl Haberstock, who acquired the picture on behalf of the so-called “Führermuseum” in Linz planned by Adolf Hitler.
After the end of the war, the painting was first passed on by the American allies to the Munich Central Collecting Point and later ended up in the hands of the German government, administered by the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues (BADV). Its enquiries revealed that there was no sign of involuntary or forced sale by Buchenau’s widow, but was rather a normal sale. The provenance has thus been cleared up and is no cause for concern.
Today, the painting “Boy at the Brook” (Knabe am Bach) by Hans Thoma can be seen once again in Frankfurt; it has been on permanent loan to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt since 1966.
See also:

B.1966.34 Hans Thoma: Knabe am Bach (Boy at the Brook), 1880, 88 x 69 cm, oil on canvas

The portrait of Frankfurt architect Oskar Pichler (1826-1856), who built the Heinrich Hoffmann “Anstalt für Irre und Epileptische” (Institution for the Insane and Epileptic) amongst others, was in possession of his granddaughter, Miss Klara Valentin. She sold the painting in April 1937 for 150 marks to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt; according to her late mother, the picture had  “Frankfurterish” value and it was her wish that it be passed on to public ownership. Even in the years before and after, up until 1955, donations and sales from Miss Valentin came to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt, including clothing, children’s toys and everyday objects. Klara Valentin, secondary school teacher, was the sister of well-known historian Dr Veit Valentin (1885-1947) and their mother, Karoline Valentin born Pichler, the daughter of the man depicted.

B 1791, Wilhelm Ludwig von Lindenschmidt (1809-1893), Portrait of architect Ernst Oskar Pichler  (1826-1865)

In 1931, native Frankfurter Eugen Hoerle explained how he wanted to donate these two portraits of his ancestors to the city of Frankfurt am Main. He came from a Protestant family of apothecaries; the Hoerles had operated the Schwanenapotheke and the Engelapotheke amongst others. His sister, Cäcilie Hoerle, died shortly before; like him, she remained childless and unmarried. This is why Eugen Hoerle planned to donate part of his collection to the city of Frankfurt during his lifetime, and wanted to bequeath another part to the city after his death. Both portraits were donated in 1934; in 1941, Hoerle died at 80 years of age of natural causes and left behind other art objects to the city of Frankfurt as promised – mainly graphic prints with Frankfurt motifs, as well as portraits and photographs of other members of the Hoerle family.

B 1734, Portrait of Anne Ester Perret, née Johannot d'Annonnay
B 1733, Portrait of Sir J.J. Perret

Erna Auerbach: Self-portrait (also: Frauenbildnis in Schwarz / Woman’s Portrait in Black)

Frankfurt painter and Jew Erna Auerbach (born 1897), together with her sister Ilse (born 1900), a lawyer, left the German empire shortly after the National Socialists came to power in 1933. The two women went to London, where they successfully built up a new life for themselves. A few years later, their widowed mother followed them from Frankfurt. This self-portrait of Erna Auerbach was created in 1932, and is thus one of the last pictures she painted in her birthplace. She died in 1975 in London. In the early 1980s, the Historisches Museum Frankfurt acquired the painting from the Frankfurt art trade; it was in the possession of a London lawyer, the husband of the artist’s sister, both of whom had Erna Auerbach’s estate for safekeeping.

Portraits of couple Adolph and Klementine von Reinach as well as Louis and Hermine Bolongaro-Crevenna

The total of four portraits of couple Adolph and Klementine von Reinach as well as Louis and Hermine Bolongaro-Crevenna are from the estate of wealthy middle-class couple Albert and Antonie von Reinach, née Bolongaro-Crevenna.
Albert (*1842), banker and geologist, had already died by 1905; just like his wife Antoine (*1847), he was a generous donor and sponsor to many Frankfurt institutions during his lifetime. The Gesellschaft für Naturforschung in Senckenberg benefited greatly from him and his wife donating a large sum to the construction of the seismological station on the Kleiner Feldberg, the second-largest mountain in the Taunus mountain range. What’s more, they both donated to charitable and social causes.
Following the natural death of Antonie von Reinach in March 1933, the four portraits were handed over entirely to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt by the couple’s long-term lawyer and executor, Justizrat (Judicial Council) Dr Wolfgang Schmidt-Scharff. As he had inherited a part from the von Reinach estate, it is not clear whether this was a donation based on the will of the couple or if Justizrat Schmidt-Scharff inherited the pieces personally and then donated them to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt. In either case, however, the paintings were not taken from their rightful owners or sold due to persecution under National Socialism.
Georg Wittemann, Portrait Ludwig (gen. Louis) Bolongaro-Crevenna (Portrait of Ludwig [named Louis] Bolongaro-Crevenna), oil on canvas, 38 x 28.6 cm

Karl Peter Burnitz: Waldlandschaft mit Gebäude (Forest Landscape with Building), ca 1865

Four Bernhards and a picture
The Historisches Museum Frankfurt acquired the painting “Forest Landscape with Building” (Waldlandschaft mit Gebäude) by Karl Peter Burnitz in 1941 from Frankfurt art dealer Joseph Fach, who owned an art shop of the same name at Westendstraße 7. Until 1937, according to a contemporary catalog raisonné, the painting was owned by "Mrs. Bernhard Kahn, Frankfurt am Main" and thus part of the painting collection of the Frankfurt couple Bernhard (1857-1917) and Anna Kahn, née Massenbach (1869-1943). Bernhard Kahn's fater Hermann, together with his brother Leopold, had founded the banking house "Kahn & Co." in Frankfurt in 1864, which Bernhard Kahn continued to run until his death in 1917, followed by Anna Kahn. After the National Socialists came to power, Anna Kahn's apartment and real estate were expropriated. She was subsequently forced to sell parts of the painting collection as well as the present one. After being deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in early September 1942, she died under unexplained circumstances on January 13, 1943. Her apartment furnishings, including the valuable collection of paintins, had been confiscated as lata as 1942.
The Historisches Museum Frankfurt would like to thank Rainer Bunz for this information. He is working on a historical treatise on the history of the Frankfurt banker families Kahn.
Karl Peter Burnitz (1824-1886), Waldlandschaft mit Gebäude (Forest Landscape with Building), 49 cm x 61 cm, inv. no. B1828 (c) HMF

This painting by artist Reinhold Ewald from 1934 numbers among the collection losses – which is why only this mediocre reproduction from a contemporary daily newspaper still exists today. As a representative of the Institut für Gemeinwohl, Richard Merton donated the work to the city of Frankfurt (or rather to the Historisches Museum) in the late summer of 1934. He was a lover of industry and art with Jewish roots from Frankfurt and signed the donation with the words: “as  a constant reminder of the historical period we are experiencing”. He did not know at this time that only a few years later he would become a victim of National Socialist politics and be forced to emigrate. According to the description, the painting is a glorification of the German worker and his role in Nazi Germany. As well as various depictions of working men and women, the painting shows a square decorated with a flag of a swastika and marching troops from the SA, SS and SJ, as well as leading National Socialists.
Reinhold Ewald: “Gruß an die deutsche Arbeit” (Greetings to the German Work), excerpt from the Frankfurter Volksblatt from 02/12/1934, (c) HMF

Jeremias van Winghe: Stillleben mit Gemüsehändlerin (Still Life with Greengrocer), 1613

The previous owner of the painting “Stillleben mit Gemüsehändlerin” (Still life with Greengrocer), Frankfurt merchant Otto May (b. 19/06/1880 in Hanau), died on 25/03/1938 and was buried two days later at the Jewish cemetery on Rat-Beil-Straße. Management of his estate was taken over by a lawyer named Dr Max Strupp. Strupp was a Jew and was initially sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1938 following the so-called “Reichskristallnacht”, a pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany. After his release, he received an occupational ban from 01/12/1938. In February 1939, he managed to flee to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Strupp was not able and not permitted to process the estate of Otto May from exile, which is why non-Jewish lawyer Dr Willi Pape (Fachfeldstraße 1, Frankfurt) took over the arrangements from then on. Willi Pape commissioned Frankfurt art dealer Rudolf Schrey (Goldgrubenstraße 38) with the sale of the painting from May’s estate. Schrey first offered the painting up for purchase to the Städel Museum at the beginning of 1939; however, according to then-director of the Städel Museum Ernst Holzinger, the painting could not be acquired as he found the demand of 3,600 RM from the art dealer “considerably too high”.
Some time later, the association for the Historisches Museum Frankfurt acquired the painting under the name “Küchenstillleben mit Magd und Jäger” (Kitchen Still Life with Maid and Hinter) at a significantly lower price of 1,500 Reichsmarks from Rudolf Schrey.

Unfortunately many questions regarding this purchase still remain unanswered: Did Otto May die naturally or was he killed violently and as a result of National Socialist persecution? Are there any descendants, heirs or family members still in existence? Was there a will? Did Max Strupp commission art dealer Rudolf Schrey with the sale of the painting or was another art dealer responsible for the sale at the beginning of handling the estate? It is possible that Hugo C. Koch – a Jewish art dealer in Frankfurt – was originally entrusted with the sale. In 1938, he was still responsible for commissioning the burial of Otto May; in 1939 he also had to leave the German Reich and fled to London.
Jeremias van Winghe (1578-1645), Stillleben mit Gemüsehändlerin (Küchenszene) (Still Life with Greengrocer - Kitchen Scene), 1613, 116 cm x 146 cm, inv. no. B1792 (c) HMF

Bunger: Bildnis des Herrn Louis Fischer zu Pferd (Portrait of Lord Louis Fischer on Horseback), ca. 1860

This painting was donated to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt in 1937 and shows a confident man working, rider Ludwig “Louis” Fischer. Just like his father, he worked at the royal court of Thurn und Taxis, a German noble family; he later went to New York, where he opened his own riding school. Louis Fischer is sitting upright and has his gaze fixed on the viewer. His horse trots with its mane and tail swaying in the wind. The unknown painter, Bunger, captured the two in the brief moment of flight: all four hooves are in the air.

The donor of the painting was the niece of the man portrayed, Miss Charlotte “Lolo” Fischer. She was born in 1874  in Frankfurt to a Protestant family, worked as a journalist and actress and published her works under the anagram “Olli Scherfo”, amongst others. Before and after 1945, she donated many items to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt, including objects from her family’s collection, various photographs, two silver tumblers and a few miniature portraits depicting family members, apparently because of her personal attachment to the city and museum. She spent the entire 12 years of National Socialist rule in Frankfurt and its surrounding area and in 1945 she moved to Bad Homburg, where she died in 1951 on Christmas Eve. Her artistic estate can be found in the university library in Frankfurt am Main.
B1527, Bunger, “Bildnis des Herrn Louis Fischer zu Pferd” (Portrait of Sir Louis Fischer on a horse), ca. 1860, B1527

The painting “View of Frankfurt” by painter Friedrich Ernst Morgenstern was originally supposed to be put up for auction with many other objects from previous Jewish ownership on 16 September 1942 in the gym of the former Klingerschule in Mauerweg, Frankfurt. However, Städel director and expert in “securing and exploiting German cultural heritage from Jewish ownership” Dr Ernst Holzinger ordered to defer auctioning this painting to “secure and exploit” it for “purposes of the Reich”, as he explained in language common for the time. In his opinion, the painting portrays, in artistic form, a state of Frankfurt that does not exist anymore, and so should be treated as a historical document. According to Holzinger, it is the job of the museum for Frankfurt’s history to collect such paintings of the city. And the Stadgeschichtliches Museum did actually finally acquire this painting from previous Jewish possession from the Reich Finance Administration for 800 Reichsmarks in the autumn of 1943.

The “View of Frankfurt” did not stay in the museum’s inventory for long. Together with two other paintings it was exchanged in 1957 with art dealer Wilhelm Henrich for the painting “Höfisches Paar in einem Zigeunerlager” (Courtly couple in a gypsy camp) by Johann Conrad Seekatz.
Friedrich Ernst Morgenstern (1853-1919), Ansicht von Frankfurt (View of Frankfurt), oil on canvas, 45 x 60.5 cm, 1899, inv. no. B.1957.01 (c) HMF

The date of acquisition – 1938 – was the deciding factor to continue enquiries into this object from the collection of musical instruments. The giraffe-style piano, built by Carl August André in 1820 in Frankfurt, gets its name from the wing-shaped design which finishes off with a volute on the upper end and is thus vaguely reminiscent of a giraffe’s silhouette.

The Historisches Museum Frankfurt acquired the piano in 1938 from the Neupert Collection from Nuremberg. Johann Christoph Neupert had founded a manufactory for historical keyboard instruments in 1868, which is still in existence today in its fourth generation. Further research on the history of the giraffe-style piano finally determined, however, that the instrument was already part of Neupert’s collection in 1927. At the time the piano was shown in the international exhibition “Music in the lives of the nation” in the Frankfurt Festhalle, together with other instruments from the collection. The suspicion that this could have had something to do with dubious accrual after 1933 is thus unjustified.

Giraffe-style piano, mahogany, built by Carl August André, ca. 1830, Frankfurt, inv. no. X29934 (c) HMF, photo: U. Dettmar

“Purchased with a special permit on 06/04/1937” is written in the Historisches Museum’s book of arrivals for the portrait of Mrs Eiser, painted by Hans Thoma. This entry was the starting point for examining the origin of the painting more closely.

Sophie Eiser and her husband Otto were close friends with painter Hans Thoma from the beginning of the 1870s. They were passionate collectors and had Thoma paint portraits of them and their family numerous times during their lifetime. This oil painting was originally in the possession of those portrayed. After the couple’s death, the collection was intended to be united with Thoma’s paintings of their friends, the Küchler couple, and passed down for posterity. 34 of these paintings originating from the Eiser-Küchler estate – which were later all left to the Thoma-Gesellschaft – were presented to the public in 1925, but this portrait of Sophie Eiser was not one of them. It was only in 1931 that it reappeared, in the “Führer durch die Thoma-Sammlung und Archiv” of the Hans-Thoma-Gesellschaft  – however, the Hans Thoma society was not the owner, but rather an unknown lender.

In January 1933, Frankfurt art dealer Wilhelm Schumann tried to sell the “Bildnis von Frau Sophie Eiser (dunkles Kleid, Rosen in der Hand)” (Portrait of Mrs Sophie Eiser: dark dress, holding roses) through the Galerie Heinemann in Munich for 1,500 Reichsmarks. Four years later, Carl Müller-Ruzika – also an art dealer in Frankfurt – offered the painting to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt (then known as the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum). Because the usual acquisition budget of the museum had already been exhausted for the financial year at the time, the mayor was asked to finance the purchase. In the meantime, the purchase price had increased significantly: 3,800 Reichsmarks were needed, which was finally granted by the mayor using special funds available to him and the painting was acquired. This explained the note in the entry book of the Historisches Museum Frankfurt and then also the outlined background during research. However, it remains unclear on whose behalf Müller-Ruzika was working or who the previous owner of the painting was.

Das Porträt von Frau Sophie Eiser (Portrait of Mrs Sophie Eiser), oil on canvas, 100 x 75 cm, painting by Hans Thoma, 1886, inv. no. B 1717 (c) HMF

In 1935, the Historisches Museum Frankfurt – then known as the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum – acquired a portrait from the Antoni family collection. The man depicted was the so-called “madhouse” administrator Anton Antoni, administrator of the local mental hospital under its famous director Heinrich Hoffmann. The painting was sold by Antoni’s great-granddaughter, Luise Kahl. According to a few statements, she was in debt in the early 1930s. The report by the welfare office on the situation of the seller knew even more details: Luise Kahl’s son from her first marriage was unemployed, meaning she had to support him. Her second marriage did not run smoothly; it says that her husband lost his job and now worked on commission as a wine traveller.

However, despite this unfortunate situation, Luise Kahl did not want to have to rely on the charity of the welfare office: This is why, at the beginning of 1935, she decided to sell the painting. The city of Frankfurt eventually acquired the painting at a price of 125 Reichsmarks. This amount was not paid by the museum, but from the “special funds of Mayor” Freidrich Krebs, as the museum’s own acquisition budget would not have allowed for this.
Frankfurt Master, Bildnis des Tollhausverwalters Anton Antoni (Portrait of madhouse administrator Anton Antoni), 65 x 53 cm, pastel on parchment, 1820, inv. no. B1623 (c) HMF, photo: U. Seitz-Gray

On the 6th of January 1936, three paintings ended up in the museum which then-mayor Krebs had paid for with funds of the municipality. They were put up for offer by 88-year-old widow Sophie Barget, who lived in a large apartment at Vilbeler Straße 26 in the 2nd and 3rd floors; despite subletting some rooms, she fell into arrears with the rent. To pay off her debt, she offered three portraits to the city which depict two Frankfurt citizens (a man and a woman) as well as Maria Johanna von Heyden. The Stadtgeschichtliches Museum was prepared to take the paintings, but had no money for paintings which were “artistically not particularly valuable, but were only interesting for historical reasons because of their portrayal of old Frankfurt citizens and of the fashion at the time”. Therefore, the mayor had the agreed 150 RM transferred to the account of Mrs Barget, who in return promised to use the money to partially pay off the arrears of her rent.

However, these were not the only three paintings purchased by the museum which can be found under the name Barget. Between 23/06/1908 and 01/02/1918, more than 30 paintings and objects were sold by antique dealer Johann Carl Barget at Vilbeler Straße 26, presumably to one of Sophie Barget’s husbands. The items include furniture as well as sculptures and crockery, and also a bowl and brandy bottle. From 1928 until 06/01/1936, Sophie Barget also appears to have sold a total of four paintings and a church pew sign. All paintings purchased from the Bargets portray Frankfurt citizens from the 19th century; as well as Maria Johanna von Heyden, Johann Tobias Nestle and his wife Anna Dorothea Nestle and Sophie von Holzhausen are known by name.
Inquiries into the provenance of the three paintings purchased in 1936 cannot exclude unlawful acquisition from Jewish owners. Although it is not clear how long the three paintings were in the possession of Mrs Barget, it is unlikely that they were acquired unlawfully. The museum’s acquisition can therefore be classed as not a cause for concern from the perspective of the provenance research.

Christian Heinrich Johann Hanson (1790-1863), Maria Johanna von Heyden, 1821, 65 x 56 cm, B1729 (c) HMF

On 14 May 1940, Supreme Administrative Court councillor Dr Kressmann from Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe in Hesse offered to sell the portrait of Dr Bruno Claus to the Städel Museum. The correspondence between Kressmann and the director of the Städel at the time, Ernst Holzinger, leads us to believe that the painting is from the estate of the late Mrs Anna Rudolph, née Crüger, whose household was up for clearance. She was married to senior councillor Carl Rudolph (1841-1915) from Kassel. The portrait portrays her grandfather, medical councillor Dr Bruno Claus, who was born in Frankfurt. The Claus family came from Frankfurt and spawned tradesmen, clergies, teachers and craftsmen. Dr Bruno Claus completed his doctorate and is listed in the Frankfurt yearbook from 1837 as a Lutheran son of a middle-class family and a “practitioner”.

Because “Dr Claus came from an old Frankfurt family”, the Städel transferred the painting to the Sadtgeschichtliches Museum in June 1941.
Matthias Radermacher was a German portrait painter of the 19th century. The portrait of Dr Bruno Claus shows him with short, dark blonde sideburns and mid-length, parted hair. He is wearing a black coat with a black tie and a deeply cut waistcoat with a white shirtfront.
Matthias Radermacher (1804-1890), Porträt Dr. Bruno Claus (Portrait of Dr Bruno Claus), 1846 oil on canvas, 62 x 53 cm, signature: Radermacher 1846, transfer from the Städelsches Kunstinstitut. Access number: 1941.6, B 1826

The Historisches Museum Frankfurt – still known as the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum at the time – acquired the painting in 1935 along with a counterpart (Justus Juncker, Speisestillleben mit Fayencekrug, 1746, B1620). It was purchased from the art shop of Mario Uzielli, a Jew who was forced to give up his business in the same year. The Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste (the Third Reich’s Imperial Chamber for Fine Arts) in Berlin had given Uzielli four weeks’ time for Uzielli to sell his inventory of art and books. Because of the short notice and the oversupply on the art market – quite a few Jewish collectors and traders at this time were forced to sell their possessions so that they could afford to flee abroad – Mario Uzielli had to offer his collection up for very low prices. He therefore only received a fraction of the actual value.

The year following the liquidation of his business, the native Frankfurter emigrated to Switzerland with his wife and two children. A so-called “Aryan” art dealer took over Uzielli’s premises and the stock he left behind and carried on the art business under another name. Uzielli did not return to Frankfurt, but died in Switzerland in 1973.
Justus Juncker, Speisestillleben mit Flasche (Still Life with Bottle), oil on pear wood, 39.4 x 48.4 cm, 1746, inv. no. B1619 (c) HMF

As of summer 2012, prominent Frankfurt collecting personalities are being shown in the renovated old buildings of the Historisches Museum Frankfurt. One of them is Jewish banker, art lover and donor Julius Heyman (1863-1925). In 1925, he bequeathed his private museum at Palmstraße 16 – which included a very carefully assembled collection of paintings, sculptures and arts and crafts – to the city of Frankfurt. This donation came with a condition: The collection was to be kept together and made accessible to the public. Despite this provision, his private museum was dissolved in 1940 and the objects were spread across many museums in the city. Some of them were even sold to art dealers. One of the goals of provenance research at the Historisches Museum Frankfurt is to reconstruct this collection and to track down missing pieces.

One of the focuses of Heyman’s collection was on valuable stained-glass paintings from the 16th and 17th century. Of the 36 objects that are recorded in an inventory book for the Heyman collection, only a single object was known until recently and could be traced in the Historisches Museum Frankfurt: The coat of arms of Johann von Hattstein, produced by the most prominent glass painter in Basel, Anthony Glaser (ca. 1505-1551). Heyman acquired this glass painting in 1911 at the auction of Lord Sudeley. Thanks to the friendly support of our colleagues at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, we have now been able to identify a counterpart that belongs to it. The coat of arms with the portrayal of St Jerome and the arms of Betschlin from 1540 was owned by Julius Heyman and is listed in the inventory book under the number 771. We now know that other panes from Heyman’s collection were offered by renowned art dealers in Switzerland in 1943. We are now continuing to pursue this line of inquiry.

The painting “Sommer, Frau mit Kind” (Summer, Woman with Child), which came to the museum in the 1950s, was part of the collection of the Ullmann family from Frankfurt until the late 1930s. However, widow Hedwig Ullmann felt obliged to leave Germany because of her Jewish roots and the resulting reprisals by the National Socialists. She emigrated with her two grown sons and their families to Australia via Italy. Before this, she was forced to sell part of her extensive art and handicraft collection, including the “Summer” painting by Hans Thoma.

In December 2013, the painting was returned to the owner’s heirs.