Dec 7, 2022

How to use information in the provenance texts of Nazi looted art that has been restituted to find other Nazi-looted artworks

This Nazi-looted painting was restituted in 2016.

Often, when a painting is restituted, it is the conclusion of a long and arduous process of archival research to establish the itinerary of the painting and the different actors involved in its looting (or sale, or transfer, or translocation). 
What happens if we take the NAMES that appear in the provenance AFTER an artwork has left the possession of the persecuted Jewish owner and plug them in to some powerful digital tools to check other provenance texts for their presence?

Could this application of digital tools provide clues that lead to other Nazi-looted artworks?

PART 1: identify the names

The Flemish painting
Männliches Bildnis in schwarzem Mantel mit Pelzkragen, Porträt eines Mannes (Lost Art-ID526702)  was restituted by France in 2016 to the family of the Jewish art collector who sold it to flee Germany in 1938. 

The provenance text contains a long list of Art Looting Investigation Unit Red Flag names. 
(marked in red)


Sammlung Prof. Ernst Ewald, - 1905; 

Sammlung Eduard F. Weber in Galerie Weber, Hamburg, 1909;

Auktion Lepke, 20.02-23.02.1912, Lot 99; 

Sammlung Martin Bromberg (und Erben), Hamburg, 1912 - 1918 - 1937 - 1938 - 20.12.1938 (vor); 

Kunsthandel M. Kleinberger (Direktor Allan Loebl), Paris vor 20.12.1938 -; 

Kunsthandel Ludwig Mandl, Wiesbaden [muss heißen: Victor Mandl, Paris], 1939; 

Kunsthandel Georges Wildenstein, Paris, 1939; 

Kunsthandel [Yves] Perdoux , Paris, - 22.02.1941; 

Galerie Dietrich, München, 22.02.1941 - März 1941, gekauft für 18.750 RM (Provision [Paul A.] Jurschewitz); 

Sonderauftrag Linz, gekauft für 35.000 RM, März 1941 -; CCP München, 15.07.1945 – 03.06.1949; 

restituiert nach Frankreich, Musées Nationaux Récupération, 03.06.1949 -

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chambéry, Frankreich; 

2016 Restitution 

(to heirs of Bromberg)

PART II: plug names in

Checking OTHER provenances for the names of the Nazi-looted art network identified in a restitution.

How to filter provenance texts for the names? Many methods exist. 

In an earlier post, we saw how easy it is to analyse large numbers of provenance texts and to flag them for certain names using the "Looted Art Detector Tool". 

(see Tutorial for the Looted Art Detector: Using custom indicators)

Let us now plug in the names that appear in the provenance text of this restituted Flemish painting and run them 21,000 provenances through the Looted Art Detector.

To do this we create a Custom Indicator File with the names to check for:

wordtype of flag

Then we

  • load the file that contains the provenance texts to be checked

PART III  Analysing results

Which artworks have provenances that contain at least one name? Do the presence of these names coincide with any other indicators that might suggest a problematic provenance? Of the names flagged, which ones should be selected for further verification, and which ones can be safely dismissed as unproblematic? Why?

What does examination of the provenance texts indicate? What additional information is needed to complete the examination?

(Try testing this approach on provenance text datasets and let us know what you find.

For more on using the information in provenance texts of restituted artworks, see Tracking Nazi-looted art dealers: Restitutions as data

see also: France Restitutes Flemish Portrait to Descendents of German-Jewish Couple

The Flemish portrait, which depicts a man of high status in a black robe lined with brown fur, is dated to the 1530s or 1540s, and attributed to Joos van Cleve of Antwerp, or his son Cornelius. It was acquired by Martin Bromberg at a Berlin auction in 1912, and passed down to his son, Henry. Henry and his wife, Hertha, fled Germany in the late 1930s, and en route to the United States, they sold the painting in 1938 in Paris, where it began a long and dangerous wartime journey, reported by the New York Times.

The painting changed hands multiple times between 1938 and 1941, when a German dealer sold it to Hitler’s Reich Chancellery. 

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