May 11, 2022

Tracking looted art by examining the names in between. Example: MEISSNER


In this post, we look in art provenances that contain Meissner, a name that has appeared in connexion with Nazi-looted art.

The Dutch masterpiece The Oyster Meal by Jacob Ochtervelt was looted by Nazis, and even today is still missing from its history the years between 1945 and 1956. What is known, however, is that it popped up in 1965 at the Swiss gallery, Galerie Kurt Meissner in Zurich, which sold it to the US ambassador to the Netherlands,  American investment banker and diplomat, J William Middendorf. Middendorf sold the painting to Edward Speelman who then sold it to property developer and entrepreneur Harold Samuel (Lord Samuel of Wych Cross). It was discovered to have been looted and finally restituted to J. H. Smidt van Gelder's daughter Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck in 2015.

How did the Nazi-looted painting get to Kurt Meissner? According to an article by Mick Brown in The Telegraph published in 2018, 

"It was discovered that Galerie Meissner had sold the painting to Middendorf with a written authentication provided by a German art historian named Walther Bernt, who had described the Ochtervelt as an 'impeccable' work by the artist, and provided a detailed, if truncated, provenance, tracing it from the collection of one Comte de Morny in Paris in 1874, to its acquisition in 1927 by an Amsterdam dealer.

After the war, Bernt had presented himself to the Allies offering to help identify art that had been looted by the Nazis and that had been retrieved. 'What he didn't mention,' Anne Webber says, 'was that under the name Walther Berndt he had helped the Gestapo in Prague, advising them on the value of collections that had been seized by the Germans, and that he was familiar with those because before the war he had advised the Jewish owners on what to buy.' In Bernt's archives, held by Harvard University, researchers found a photograph of The Oyster Meal. Written on the back was a reference to Gallery Peiffer, in Düsseldorf....

 the owners of the gallery had consulted Walther Bernt, and it was Bernt, no doubt knowing that the painting was looted property, who had arranged the transaction with Galerie Meissner in Zurich


A Courbet at the Fitzwilliams Museum is currently under investigation. It also passed through Meissner.


Meissner can be described as a name "in between". 

That is, a name of a dealer that pops up between the moment of Nazi plunder and the installation in a respectable museum. What other artworks passed through Meissner? What is the state of their provenances? Are there gaps 1933-1945? Red flag? Uncertainty or anonymity words?

To find out, we invite art historians to give a close read to the following provenances. A few of the names that appear together with Meissner are highlighted. 

Question for students of art history and provenance researchers. What is known about these names? 

1. Meissner in UK Spoliation Reports

Friedrich Preller the Elder

Description: The stag hunt after Ruisdael

Reference: PD.9-1991

Questions in the operative period: Where between 1933-1945? From where and when acquired by Meissner?

Materials: Point of the brush, watercolour over graphite and touches of black chalk

Acquisition: Bought from the Biffen and Gaskell Funds, 1991

Dimensions: 318 x 403 mm

Provenance: Kurt Meissner; with Tan Bunzl & Rothschild, from whom bought


Part of: Uncategorized

Drawn by Kobell, Franz

Description: Landscape with two trees in foreground; lawn with a large tree to either side and wood in distance Brush and brown ink and wash, with graphite outline around edge of sheet

Reference: 1996,0928.10

Questions in the operative period: Uncertain or incomplete 1933-45 provenance

Materials: paper

Acquisition: 1996

Dimensions: Height: 176 mm; Width: 212 mm

Provenance: Donated by Lachenmann, David; Previous owner/ex-collection Galerie Bruno Meissner


Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder

Description: Flowers in a Glass Vase

Reference: NG6549

Questions in the operative period: {1} Whereabouts and provenance until post WWII? {2} Source for information about Switzerland? {3} Provenance between post 1945 and 1960's?

Materials: Oil on copper

Acquisition: Bequeathed by Mrs Sally Speelman and Mr Anthony Speelman in memory of Mr Edward Speelman, 1994

Dimensions: 26 x 20.5 cm

Provenance: Switzerland, possibly shortly after Second World war {1, 3}. acquired from a Canadian family near Genoa in the 1960's or from a private collection near Zollikon, Switzerland around 1970/1972 by Kurt Meissner (dealer), Zurich {2, 3},; Edward Speelman (dealer), London; bequeathed to the National Gallery by Edward Speelman (dealer) in 1994.


Part of: Paintings

2. Meissner in provenances in US Museums




1921, (Gallery Neupert, Zürich, Switzerland);(Gallery Thannhauser, Munich, Germany);1988, (Bruno Meissner, Zürich, Switzerland);1988-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)


1913? Louis S. Günzburger, Geneva;by 1918 Max Moos, Geneva;1977 Toledo Museum of Art;(Purchased through;Bruno Meissner, Zurich);Toledo Museum of Art;Provenance Report, page 54


With Hadfield and Burrowes, London, by May 10, 1785;Their sale, First;Part of the Large Collection of Pictures, made by Messrs. Hadfield and;Burrowes, during their tour Through Flanders, France, Germany and Holland, Greenwood’s;London, May 10, 1785, lot 79;With Philip Hill, by June 20, 1807;Purchased at his sale, A;Most Capital and Valuable Collection of Pictures, Christie’s, London, June;20, 1807, lot 44, by Michael Bryan (1757-1821), London, 1807;The;Properties of a Gentleman and a Baronet, H. Phillips’s, London, June;2, 1815, lot 5;With Alexis Delahante, Esq., Paris, by May 30, 1817;His sale, A Select and Pleasing Collection of Cabinet;Pictures, H. Phillips’s, London, May 30, 1817, lot 84;Sir Edward Cockburn, 8th Baronet (1834-1903), Herefordshire;England, by 1903;Purchased at his sale, Important;Pictures of the Early English School and Works by Old Masters, Christie;Manson and Woods, London, April 25, 1903, lot 139, by Hamblin, 1903 [1];With Van der Perre, Paris, by 1905-1906;With S.A. L’Antiquaille, Paris, by 1937-1938 [2];With M. Samuel, Paris, 1938;Purchased from Samuel by an unknown private collector;France, 1938-June 25, 1984;Purchased at the private collector’s sale, Tableaux Anciens, Sotheby Parke Bernet;Monte Carlo, June 25, 1984, lot 3305, by Galerie Bruno Meissner, Zürich, 1984;[3];Purchased from Meissner and Newhouse Galleries, New York, by;The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, 1984.;NOTES;[1] The handwritten notation ‘Hamblin’ is located in the;right margin of a copy of the 1903 sale catalogue in the Getty Research;Institute, Los Angeles.;[2] According to letters between S. A. “L’Antiquaille” and;the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, December 10, 1937-February 12, 1938, concerning;the latter’s attempt to purchase the painting, Centraal Museum, Utrecht;Archives, copies in the NAMA curatorial files. According Edwin Buijsen, Curator;of Early Netherlandish Painting, Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische;Documentatie, in a letter dated July 9, 1998, NAMA curatorial files, a notation;on the back of an old photograph in the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische;Documentatie states the painting was offered to dealer P. Graupe (1881-1953) in;1938, but it is unclear who offered it.;[3] Galerie Bruno Meissner sold a quarter share of the;painting to Newhouse Galleries following the Sotheby’s sale. See a letter to;the editor from Bruno Meissner, Art;Auction (December 1984).


Possibly Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga (died 1765) [Clark 1985]; then by descent, possibly Valenti Gonzaga’s nephew, Cardinal Luigi Valenti Gonzaga (died 1808); a noble Florentine family. Private collection, Rome [Clark 1985]. P. & D. Colnaghi, London, 1975. Galerie Bruno Meissner Switzerland, by 1976; sold to Art Institute, 1976.


Art market, Germany [according to Paris 1982, no. 31]. Sold at a public sale, Milan, to Ettore Viancini, Venice [letter of August 24, 1976 from Pierre Rosenberg to Patrice Marandel and note of conversation of Susan Wise with Patrice Marandel in curatorial file]; sold by Viancini to Gilberto Algranti, Milan and London [according to letter and note cited above]; sold by Algranti to Silvano Lodi, Campione d’Italia, and Bruno Meissner, Zurich, 1973 [according to letter and note cited above], passed solely into Meissner’s possession [letter from Bruno Meissner to Susan Wise dated May, 1981 in curatorial file]; sold by Meissner to Art Institute, 1976.


[Silvano Lodi, Lugano, by 1970]. [Bruno Meissner, Zurich]. [Bob Habdolt & Co., Paris and New York, by 1985], sold, to a private collector by 1989 [with "Reclining Male Nude"]. Vermeer Associates Ltd. [through Sotheby's, New York, 1995, Sale 6654, lot 66], sold, to Harvard Art Museums, 1997.


Private collection, Switzerland (?) [see note 1]. 1977, Gabinetto delle Stampe, 1977, sold by Gabinetto delle Stampe to Colnaghi, Zurich, 1977, consigned by Colnaghi, Zurich to Colnaghi, London, 1978, sold by Colnaghi to Bruno Meissner, Zurich and probably sold back to Colnaghi, 1979, sold by Colnaghi to the MFA. (Accession Date: March 14, 1979);NOTES;[1] According to notes in the curatorial file.


By about 1920, Baron Eugène-Napoléon Beyens (b. 1855 - d. 1934), Brussels (?). Private collection, England, December 10, 1980, anonymous ("property of a nobleman") sale, Sotheby's, London, lot 6 [see note 1], probably to Bruno Meissner, Zurich, 1981, sold by Meissner to P. and D. Colnaghi, London and New York, 1983, gift of Colnaghi to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 7, 1983);NOTES;[1] In a letter from Arabella Bailey of Sotheby's to Helen Hall of the MFA (March 13, 1985), this painting and its companion (1983.592) are said to have been purchased by the consignor's father "probably in Paris before the 1st World War.


Provenance -;Private Collection [sold, Old Master Drawings, Sotheby's London, March 21, 1974, lot 111.] -;Kurt Meissner (L.4665, L.4666), 1909 - 2004 -;British Rail Pension Trustee Company, Ltd. -;Succi Ltd. -;Private Collection (France) [sold, Cabinet Italien: Italian Old Master Drawings from two French Private Collections, Christie's, New York, January 28, 1999, lot 30, to private collection.] -;Private Collection [sold, Old Master and 19th Century Drawings, Christie's New York, January 22, 2003, lot 38, to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]


Provenance 1827 - 1864;Leo von Klenze, German, 1784 - 1864, by inheritance within the Klenze family, 1864. 1864 -;Klenze Family, by inheritance to Herbert M. von Klenze. - 1985;Herbert M. von Klenze (Ellenberg, Germany) [sold, Lempertz, Cologne, November 21, 1985, lot 479, to Kurt (or Bruno) Meissner.] 1985 - 1986;Kurt Meissner (L.4665, L.4666), 1909 - 2004 (Zurich, Switzerland) 1986;Bruno Meissner Kunsthandel (Zurich, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986.


Provenance -;Kurt Meissner (L.4665, L.4666), 1909 - 2004 (Zürich, Switzerland) -;Art Market (London)


Estate of the artist, Basel 1913, inv. no. 46, Kurt Meissner, Zurich, Stiftung Wolfgang Ratjen, Vaduz, (Katrin Bellinger, Kunsthandel, Munich), purchased 2000 by NGA.


(Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Meissner, Zurich), gift to NGA, 2001.


Adalbert Freiherr von Lanna, Prague [1836 - 1909] (Lugt 2773), (sale, H. G. Gutekunst, Stuttgart, 6-11 May 1910, no. 418), Siegfried Laemmle [1863-1953], Munich, 1936. Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Meissner, Zurich, gift to NGA, 2001.


Artist's estate (not in Lugt), Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Meissner, Zurich, gift to NGA, 2001.


Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Meissner, Zurich, gift to NGA, 2001.


Artist's estate (not in Lugt), Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Meissner, Zurich, gift to NGA, 2001.


Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Meissner, Zurich, gift to NGA, 2002.


Estate of the artist. Kurt Meissner, Zurich, gift to NGA, 2002.


Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Meissner, gift to NGA, 2003.


Jonathan Richardson Sr., London (1665 - 1745)(Lugt 2183)(shelf mark H6 2D, on his original mount). Private collection (not in Lugt). (Kurt Meissner, Zurich). James Ferrell, (Les Enluminures, Paris and Chicago), NGA purchase with donated funds in 2004.


Kurt Meissner (not in Lugt). (sale, Sotheby's, London, 8 July 2004, no. 98), NGA purchase(via Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd., London)in 2004.


Rolas du Rosey collection (sale, Weigel, Leipzig, 5 September 1864, no. 5386, as Murer), Boguslaw Jolles, Dresden and Vienna (Lugt 381)(sale, Helbing, Munich, 31 October 1895, no. 374, as C. Murer), (sale, Weinmüller, Munich, 9-10 May 1939, no. 317, as C. Maurer). Kurt Meissner, Zurich. (C. G. Boerner, Inc., New York), NGA purchase in 2004.


Salathé's estate. (Kurt Meissner, Zurich). Wolfgang Ratjen, Munich, purchased 2007 by NGA.


Johann August Gottlieb Weigel [1773-1846], Leipzig, Theodore Oswald Weigel [1812-1881], Leipzig, (J.A.G. Weigel sale, Gutekunst, Stuttgart, 15 May 1883, no. 285). Richard von Kühlmann [1873-1948], Germany. Richard Holtkott [1866-1950], Bedburg. (sale, Stephan List, Frankfurt am Main, 10-11 October 1969, no. 120, as Elsheimer School). Kurt Meissner, Zurich. David Lachenmann, Munich, Wolfgang Ratjen, Munich, purchased 2007 by NGA.


J. Richardson, Sr. (Lugt 2184), Kurt Meissner


Dr. Carl Steinbart [1852-1923], Berlin, by 1885.[1] (Kunsthandlung Fritz Gurlitt, Berlin), in 1886.[2] Julie Ginsberg, Berlin, by 1897.[3] Dr. Arthur von Weinberg [1860-1943], Frankfurt-am-Main, by 1904, by inheritance to his adopted daughters, Charlotte Frederike, Princess Ferdinand Lobkowicz [1896-1973], Frankfurt-am-main, and Marie Elisabeth, Gräfin von Spreti [1892-1969], presumably by inheritance to Marie Elisabeth's daughter, Alexandra-Beatrix Scherping [b. 1929, née Countess von Spreti], Schloss Pähl, Bavaria. (Galerie Bruno Meissner, Zurich), by 1975,[4] purchased 1976 by NGA.;[1] Steinbart's name is written three times in various locations on the reverse of the panel, see notes and photos in NGA curatorial files.;[2] The Gurlitt name is given in Rolf Andree, Arnold Böcklin: Die Gemälde, Basel and Munich, 1977: 451, no. 378, repro.;[3] Mrs. Ginsberg lent the painting to an 1897 exhibition in Berlin.;[4] Provenance provided by Galerie Bruno Meissner. See also letter dated 3 August 1976 from Prince Edouard de Lobkowicz in NGA curatorial files.


(Galerie Kurt Meissner), acquired 1984 by the NGA.


(sale, Frankfurt, Prestel 10-16 November 1920, no. 2296 as Jeremias van Winjhe), (sale, Amsterdam, DeVries 24-25 January 1922, no. 614 as Joos van Winjhe), (sale, Amsterdam, DeVries 1929 as Joos van Winjhe), B. Houthakker, Amsterdam, (Galerie Kurt Meissner), purchased by NGA, 1984.


Kurt Meissner, Zurich


(Galerie Kurt Meissner), acquired 1987 by the National Gallery of Art


Kurt Meissner, Zurich. Dr. Andrew Robison, gift 1991 to NGA.


Private collection, the Netherlands, acquired 1948 by private collection, by inheritance to a subsequent owner,[1] (sale, Ader-Picard-Tajan, Paris, 22 June 1990, no. 39), purchased by (Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, Bruno Meissner, Zurich, and Otto Naumann, New York), sold 27 February 1991 to NGA.;[1] According to the 1990 Ader-Picard-Tajan auction catalogue.


A. Prybram-Gladona Collection (from his father), to Kurt Meissner (no date available from Meissner Gallery), Hall Establishment, to Armand Hammer Collection, 1969.


Moscardo family, Verona, as a part of the so-called Museo Moscardo, beginning in the 16th century, probably Teresa Moscardo, who married Marcantonio Miniscalchi, Verona, and then by descent to the Minischalci-Erizzo collection, which was dispersed at the beginning of the 20th century. (L'Art Ancien, Zurich), Kurt Meissner, Switzerland (his mark, not in Lugt), Ian Woodner, New York, (sale, London, Christie's, Old Master Drawings from the Woodner Collection, 7 July 1992, no. 7), purchased by Yvonne tan Bunzl, London, NGA purchase in 1993.


Commissioned by Friedrick Augustus III, king of Poland and elector of Saxony [1696-1763],[1] Henry Temple, 2nd viscount Palmerston [1739-1802], London, Henry John Temple, 3rd viscount Palmerston [1784-1865], London,[2] who gave it, perhaps to pay a debt, to William Lygon, 1st earl Beauchamp [1747-1816], Madresfield Court, Worcestershire,[3] by inheritance to Else, Countess Beauchamp [1895-1989],[4] (sale, Sotheby's, London, 11 December 1991, no. 18), (Bernheimer Fine Arts Ltd., London and Munich, and Meissner Fine Art Ltd., Zurich and London), sold 3 June 1993 to NGA.;


Provenance (sale: Sotheby’s, London, March 24, 1971, no. 104);[Bruno Meissner, Zurich];[Schaeffer Galleries, New York, 1972], sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1973. [E. Speelman, London];[Leonard Koetser, London, 1962 to 1967];M. B. Asscher, London, 1946;J. Singer, London, 1948;Paul Oppenheimer, Littleborough, Lancashire


Provenance 1987- The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio 1987 (Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, and Bruno Meissner, Zurich, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art) 1987 (Nouveau Drouot, Paris, sale, March 17, 1987, no. 147, sold to Thomas Agnew and Bruno Meissner) 1 Possibly until 1987 Private collection, Tournai (?), Belgium 2 c. 1540/1545-after 1581 Dirick [1512-1578] and Machtelt van Teijlingen [d. after 1581], Alkmaar, Holland;Provenance Footnotes 1 The painting was in private hands until it appeared in this auction, before which it was unknown. The painting is listed in the catalogue section containing works consigned by “divers amateurs.” 2 The museum's files indicate this painting was owned by a private collector in Tournai whose identity remains unknown.;Provenance Citations;Evan Turner, letter to Ann Lurie, April 7, 1987, in CMA curatorial file.;Lurie, Ann Tzeutschler. “Heemskerck’s Portrait of Machtelt Suijs at The Cleveland Museum of Art,” T he Burlington Magazine 134, no. 1076 (Nov., 1992): 698-706.;Ann Tzeutschler Lurie, letter to Evan Turner, July 1, 1987, in CMA curatorial file.;“The Year in Review,” The Cleveland Museum of Art News & Calendar, 1988.;Evan Turner, letter to Ann Tzeutschler Lurie, April 7, 1987, in CMA curatorial file;Hôtel Drouot. Objets d'art et de très bel ameublement principalement du XVIIIe siècle, dessins et tableaux anciens. March 17, 1987.;Ann Tzeutschler Lurie, letter to Evan Turner, July 1, 1987, in CMA curatorial


?Curt Benedict, Villa de Sachs, Paris, later Zürich (sold to Meissner), [Kurt Meissner, Zürich, in 1961,?sold to Oppenheim],?Hans Oppenheim,?[Edward Speelman, London],?Colonel Hudson, Pershore, Worcestershire, England, Herman and Lila Shickman, New York (1971–2001)


the artist, Pencerrig, near Builth Wells, Radnorshire, Wales (until d. 1803), his daughter, Elizabetha Francesca Jones (later Mrs. John Dale) (1803–d. 1806), her widower, Captain John Dale (1806–d. 1827), his daughter (by a later marriage), Rose Dale (from 1827), by descent to her grandson, Canon J. H. Adams (until 1975, his sale, Sotheby's, London, November 27, 1975, no. 92, as "Ponte Loreto near Nettano"), [Colnaghi, London, from 1975], [Bruno Meissner, Zollikon, Switzerland, by 1976–78], Pierre Boissonas, Zürich (from 1978), sale, Christie's, London, June 10, 1999, no. 14, as "View from Ponte Loreto, an antique bridge near Nettuno", [Artemis Fine Arts, London, sold to Thaw], Eugene V. Thaw, New York (by 2001–9)


the artist, Frankfurt am Main (until d. 1893), his son, Ernst Morgenstern, Frankfurt (until d. 1919, his estate), Günter Scharnowski, Munich, [Bruno Meissner, Zürich], [Walter Feilchenfeldt, Zürich], Eugene V. Thaw, New York (until 2009)


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