The works of art from the Jacques Goudstikker collection listed in the LostArt database were looted by Hermann Göring.1 There are still no traces of many of these paintings but it can be assumed that most of the artworks described below still exist. Recent experience indicates that many looted artworks from the Jacques Goudstikker collection are either scattered undiscovered throughout the world on the walls of public museums and in the collections of unsuspecting individuals or are deliberately being concealed by collectors who are aware of the precarious provenance of their possessions.
The reconstruction of this quintessential example of the looting of artworks, therefore, also fulfills an historical function and is an example of how the life’s work of a Jewish art dealer’s dynasty was crushed overnight by the corrupt and brutal Nazi Regime.
Shortly after the invasion in May 1940 as the German Wehrmacht occupied the Netherlands, Jacques Goudstikker was able to leave the country on one of the last boats along with his wife Desirée (née von Halban) and their young son Eduard. But his life was tragically cut short during the journey to England when he was killed by a fall on board the ship.
After the Wehrmacht’s Blitzkrieg wore down the Western Front a few weeks later, Göring, the second-in-command of the Nazi regime, arrived in Amsterdam with the intention of taking over the artworks of the famous Goudstikker Gallery. Even though the war was raging, Göring had nothing more urgent to do than search out the treasures left-behind by fleeing Jews. Assisted by the Munich banker Alois Miedl and his chief purchasing agent, the art dealer Walter Andreas Hofer, Göring seized the gallery’s stock. By threatening to deport Goudstikker’s mother, who had remained behind, and by offering huge bonuses to the Goudstikker dealership’s employees, Göring and Miedl were able to acquire the business and all of its assets without the approval of Goudstikker’s heirs, his widow, Desirée, and infant son, Edo. Although a significant number of artworks had already been looted and shipped to Germany before any agreement had been signed, Göring and Miedl papered the acquisition of the “Kunsthandel J. Goudstikker, N.V.”, which had a stock of approximately 1,400 works of art as well as real estate and other assorted valuables, for a price of 2.5 million Dutch guilders as of July 13, 1940. The purchase money was purportedly deposited in a frozen account. Jacques’ widow Desirée, who controlled a majority of the shares in the gallery, vehemently opposed the compulsory sale whilst in exile. But to no avail. By quickly taking over the internationally renowned art dealership, Göring out maneuvered Hitler and acquired Goudstikker’s important art collection for his own personal enrichment. The takeover of the Goudstikker company by Göring and Miedl was a “classic Aryanization”, as has been explained in numerous publications. In the London Declaration of January 5, 1943, the Allies reserved their rights to declare invalid the forced dispossession of property in enemy-controlled territories. Those victims of National Socialism in occupied countries who were forced to sell with their backs to the wall should not legally lose their property.
The Fate Of The Artworks After Their Looting In July 1940
What happened to the works that were sent from Amsterdam to Berlin? What do we know today about the whereabouts of the missing works looted by the Reichsmarschall in 1940?
Göring had about 800 artworks from the gallery’s stock transported to Germany and channeled off the very best of them to supplement his own personal collection. Most of these paintings were recovered from the Reichsmarschall’s hiding-places in 1945 by the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (“MFAA”) officers of the United States military and are not a subject matter of this research project. Göring sold the paintings he did not integrate into his own private collection during the war years via various German auction houses, the flourishing German art trade and the Aryanized Goudstikker Gallery. There are still no traces of the current whereabouts of most of these works.
Several hundred of the missing works were rejected by Göring and his advisors for the Göring collection shortly after they arrived in Berlin in the summer of 1940 and they were immediately sold back to the Goudstikker gallery, which had been taken over by Miedl. He largely sold the artworks repurchased from Göring at various auctions in Germany; the art market boomed during the war years because many buyers in the “Reich” increasingly favored tangible assets. Since Miedl was unable to successfully sell the repurchased Göring paintings, a renewed attempt was made at a different auction house. If the auction was again unsuccessful for Miedl, the twice failed works were offered and sold on the open market.
Along with further artworks that did not originate from the looted Goudstikker holdings, an additional 50 of the missing works were used by Göring in 1944 as partial payment in an exchange for a – as it later turned out – forged Vermeer. The seller of the Vermeer was again Göring’s Amsterdam business partner Alois Miedl who marked the circa 50 Goudstikker works with a so-called H number and integrated them in the gallery’s sales stock.
There are no known paths for the paintings that remained with Göring. We know that Göring anonymously auctioned paintings at the state-owned Viennese Dorotheum auction house. Aside from the so-called Vermeer exchange and deliveries to auction houses, we assume that Göring used other methods to sell paintings. For example, the American intelligence service investigations indicate that Göring sold many works to industrialists and to other high-ranking Nazis. There is speculation that he had exceptionally valuable paintings sent abroad shortly before the military downfall.
The Sources for Art Recovery after nearly 80 Years: “Blackbook” – Inventory Register – Photographs – Inventory Cards – Gallery Labels and Seals
The most important primary research source is the Blackbook,2 which Goudstikker laid out under the threatening clouds of his time. It is a small black leather loose-leaf binder with an index: Goudstikker recorded his current art collection shortly before his flight in May 1940 in a handy loose-leaf binder. The “Black Notebook,” which does not contain illustrations, lists the artworks alphabetically according to the artist – typed and easily readable.
The Inventory Register
A surviving gallery Inventory Register,3 which was compiled beginning in 1931, provides a list of works with Goudstikker inventory numbers. The works in the inventory book that had not previously been marked as sold were still a part of the gallery in early 1940. The items are numbered sequentially in accordance with the date of acquisition.4
The two books supplement each other and can be used as a kind of concordance: the inventory numbers are included with each artist entry in the Blackbook and the artist’s name is noted after the inventory number in the Inventory Register. Both sources also contain additional data that is critical for the conclusive identification of individual artworks.
Alongside these books, an archive of photographs that once belonged to the Goudstikker art dealership is of great importance. The original photographs in the archive illustrate the gallery’s stock. They were sent by Goudstikker for inspection to potential customers or to specialists for the preparation of their expert opinions, or they were used for reproduction in exhibition catalogs and other publications.
The Goudstikker Photograph Archive
The Goudstikker Gallery’s photograph archive contained photographs of the artworks owned by Goudstikker at the time he fled and of the paintings which he had previously sold. Miedl took over the photograph archive and the library in 1940. Desirée von Saher, Goudstikker’s widow, recovered both after the end of World War Two.
In March 1951, she commissioned the Amsterdam auction house Frederik Muller & Co. to auction Goudstikker’s library and the photograph archive. The de Boer gallery secured Goudstikker’s original photographs and the photograph archive. The Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in The Hague (RKD) assumed the library and ca. 1500 index cards on the individual works as well as the negatives of the original photographs.
The survival of the Goudstikker photograph archive, despite the war and its aftermath, was critical to our research. While the photographs have been integrated into de Boer’s classification system and thus are no longer in their original sequence, the pictures have never been mounted on cardboard. The photographs are immediately identifiable as coming from the original Goudstikker archive due to the notes, numberings, and stamps from Goudstikker’s time, which are still visible on the backs. In some cases even the inventory numbers (Blackbook numbers) are noted. A definitive attribution of such pictures to works noted in the Blackbook could, therefore, be made.
The back side of Goudstikker painting no. 686 with:
- Goudstikker Gallery Seal
- Label Exhibition “Het Stilleven”
- First Gallery Label, Kalverstraat 73 with
- Revision sticker “’40”
- Label “Accountantskantoor…”
The Glass Negatives in the RKD
The foundation of the RKD holdings comprises the bequest of Cornelis Hofstede de Groot (1863-1930) and a larger donation by Frits Lugt (1884-1970).5 Goudstikker maintained intensive contacts to these two famed art historians, and they all exchanged photographs of their newest “discoveries” on the Old Masters market. Many of the prints, therefore, were from the Goudstikker art dealership. In addition, Goudstikker, like many of his colleagues, continued to regularly send photographs to the RKD after it was founded. In 1951, the RKD acquired the original glass negatives of the Goudstikker gallery at a Fred. Muller & Co. auction. New prints were subsequently made from these negatives and integrated into the RKD’s collection.
To improve their use by the many art historians who seek out the RKD as a public research institution, these photographs have been affixed to cardboard backings.
The Inventory Cards
Along with the negatives, an ample proportion of the Goudstikker inventory card file was also acquired by the RKD in 1951. Like the Blackbook and the inventory book, the inventory cards do not contain illustrations. But unlike the “Black Notebook,” the individual index cards, in the event a photograph was taken, the cards include the name of the photographer and the photograph number and in which exhibitions catalogs or catalogs of the Goudstikker dealership in which the artworks were illustrated or described. Because Miedl continued the to use the card file during the occupation, there are are entries on the cards with the names of interested parties who were offered the paintings for sale as well as the names of the actual buyers. But the original Goudstikker card file is incomplete. Some of the inventory cards have been removed, and it is still not clear why, when, or by whom they were removed.6
The Reverse Side: Gallery Labels And Seals
A look at the reverse of a painting can provide further information: exhibition labels, stamps, seals, inscriptions and brands such as the marking from shippers and auction houses or even the original Goudstikker inventory number on a gallery label. A number of stickers can be found on the reverse side of a work of art, allowing the work to be securely assigned to the collection of Jacques Goudstikker’s gallery.
First of all each work was originally provided with a label of the gallery. Depending on the time at which the work was included in the collection, the labels are different, and we have identified a total of five different printed labels. Inventory numbers were handwritten the labels. In some cases, the name of the artist was also noted.
The earliest label can be found on works with low inventory numbers. It measures approx. 5.7 x 8 cm. In a simple frame the following text is written in sans serif black letters:
Kalverstraat 73, Amsterdam
There is another graphically more complex label in two sizes that also dates from the time the gallery was in the Kalverstraat location. The square version measures approx. 6.5 x 6.5 cm and bears the following text in the double decorative frame:
The rectangular version measures approx. 5 x 12 cm and carries the following text in a simple decorative frame:
KALVERSTRAAT 73 – AMSTERDAM
After the relocation to Heerengracht 458, the label also changes, the design remains basically the same, the formats change slightly. The square label measures 7 x 7 cm, the text in the double frame now reads:
The rectangular version measures approx. 5 x 11.5 cm and carries the following text in a simple frame:
HEERENGRACHT 458 – AMSTERDAM
On these labels the inventory number was noted and in some cases also the name of the artist.
It is possible that some labels have been lost or deliberately removed over time. On many pictures there are further stickers on the back, which makes it possible to connect them to the gallery Goudstikker. A frequently found sticker probably dates from the time of a new inventory of the gallery stock after the “sale” in 1940. It is a toothed standard label with a blue double frame with rounded corners, which was used affixed horizontally. The dimensions are approx. 1.5 x 2.5 cm. The handwritten inscription reads:
» ’40 «
Another frequently found sticker, which presumably dates back to the new inventory of the gallery stock after the “sale” in 1940. It is also a standard etiquette, which is usually used as a text field for the lettering of notebooks or account books. It is a rectangular label with cut corners, which is elaborately designed with lines. It measures 11.5 x 7.5 cm. In addition to varying inscriptions, it contains the two-line text in the typeset stamp print:
POLAK, WOLFRAT, ENTROP EN VAN NAMEN«
In some cases, where there was not enough space for one of the Goudstikker Galerie labels in its original size, the labels were cut to fit.
There are seals on many pictures of the stock, which are unfortunately often damaged or became a red color spot during a frequent woodworm treatment of wood panel pictures. A seal that can be found relatively frequently on pictures of the Goudstikker Gallery is round and made of red sealing wax. It shows a painting palette with brushes. It bears the circulating inscription:
Other seals used by Jacques Goudstikker bear no inscription.
For the still life pictures, reference is made to the exhibition “Het Stilleven”, which was organized by Jacques Goudstikker and at which, in addition to several loans, pictures from the Goudstikker’s own collection were shown. For this exhibition, a special square label was produced, measuring approx. 5.5 x 5.5 cm. In a simple frame it is written in sans serif font:
J. GOUDSTIKKER N.V.
18 Febr. t/m 26 Maart 1933
Goudstikker Art Research Project, 2020
1 The historical part of this text is based on the text “Looted by the Reichsmarschall” by Nina Senger, Jan Thomas Köhler and Clemens Toussaint. This text was printed in 2007 in an edition of 20 copies for the heirs of Jacques Goudstikker.
2 The “Black Book” is located in the Amsterdam Gemeentearchief, Goudstikker Bequest, inv. no. 1341, file 38, weblink: https://archief.amsterdam/inventarissen/details/1341/withscans/0/findingaid/1341/start/0/limit/10/flimit/5.
3 The gallery’s Inventory Register is located in the Amsterdam Gemeentearchief, Goudstikker Bequest, inv. no. 1341, file 97.
4 The entries of the artworks Goudstikker sold before he fled in May 1940 are crossed out but they are still legible and were very helpful for the present research.
5 With its more than 6 million photographs, reproductions, and Ektachromes, the picture archive at the RKD is the largest collection of visual art historical material in the world. Approximately 50,000 illustrations are added annually. The press documentation of the RKD contains a further 2 million newspaper clippings and miscellaneous printed matter such as advertisements and exhibition invitations. About 52,000 such items are added to the collection annually. The library, which contains about 450,000 volumes, is the largest art historical library in the Netherlands.
6 A few inventory cards are located in the Amsterdam Gemeentearchief, Goudstikker Bequest, inv. no. 1341.