Dec 23, 2021

The Art Loss Register Ltd Speech given at a Symposium in Amsterdam on 30th January 2008 hosted by Sotheby’s Auctioneers

 Our research began in August 2002 when we were asked to record a picture by Picasso ‘Still Life with Painting’ on the ALR database by two claimants living in England and the USA.   

As proof of ownership, they showed us a page from an exhibition catalogue for an exhibition of Dutch paintings held at the Stedelijk Museum from February to April 1939.  

Although the lender was noted as ‘Private Collection, Amsterdam’, the archives of the Stedelijk Museum held documents that could prove that the lender of the Picasso was their great-aunt,  Dr Meyer-Udewald, then living at an address in Vijzelstraat, Amsterdam.   

Within a week, we traced the Picasso to a private collection in the USA where it had been since 1952 but we had little idea then that we were facing four years of meticulous research in eleven countries to piece together how the Picasso had come to rest where it did.    

In the course of that research, not only did we reconstruct the provenance of this early Picasso but we discovered that, thanks to a Will written in 1925 by a Mr Schlesinger of Hamburg, that the claimants who had approached the ALR were not, after all, entitled to claim the Picasso as a war loss as their great aunt had only been granted a life interest in it.  

On her death, whenever that took place, the Picasso was to revert to Mr Schlesinger’s wife and children.    We discovered Käthe Schlesinger and the three children emigrated from Nazi Germany in 1938, settling in the USA and we located the heirs and advised them about the Picasso.   

Dr Meyer-Udewald, who was also Jewish, had emigrated from Hamburg to Tilburg in the Netherlands in 1936 loaning the Picasso to the Stedelijk Museum three years later.  In 1940, Dr Meyer Udewald moved to Belgium.  Once in Belgium, Dr Meyer-Udewald moved between safe houses in Brussels and Antwerp until she was betrayed and sent to the transit camp for Jewish prisoners at Malines.  

On 20 September 1943, she was deported from Malines to Auschwitz where she died.  Her premature death activated the terms of the 1925 Will of Ernst Schlesinger.  In wartime Brussels, the Picasso passed through the hands of Joseph Albert Dederen, a resident of Brussels and Dr Robyn, who loaned the picture to an exhibition in Knokke, its first public reappearance after the war.  The painting then surfaced at the Bollag Gallery in Zurich from whom it was purchased by the Galerie Benador, Geneva.  In October 1952, the Picasso was acquired in good faith by Duncan Phillips, founder of the Phillips Collection in Washington DC.   Following the ALR’s reconstruction of the provenance, we negotiated a settlement on behalf of the heirs of Ernst Schlesinger with the legal representative of Duncan V. Phillips.

The Art Loss Register Ltd

A Database for Nazi Looted Art Claims 

Speech given at a Symposium in Amsterdam on 30th January 2008 hosted by Sotheby’s Auctioneers

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