Drawing Sold to Hildebrand Gurlitt While Fleeing Nazis Will Be Returned to Original Owner’s Family

The city of Cologne acknowledges it had been sold under duress.

A detail of Blick über die Dächer von Schandau (View over the Roofs of Schandau), 1886, by Adolf Menzel.

An 1886 drawing by Adolf von Menzel, Blick über die Dächer von Schandau (View over the Roofs of Schandau), will be returned the heirs of Elisabeth Linda Martens by the city of Cologne. According to the German Press Agency DPA, the city has met the decision on September 22, thus acknowledging that the artwork had been sold under duress. Martens is presumed to have sold it in 1939 to fund the escape from Germany of her and her husband, who was classified as Jewish under Nuremberg laws. The couple fled to the United States.

“We can presume that the sale of the drawing financed their escape,” the city of Cologne declared in a statement. “The city council decided to return the drawing to the descendants.”

The drawing was purchased in 1939 by art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt for the Wallraf-Richartz Museum’s collection. Gurlitt’s personal collection was later revealed to contain a number of valuable artworks either stolen from Jews or purchased under circumstances in which Jewish families were forced to sell their assets.

Hildebrand Gurlitt acquired pieces to eventually contribute to Hitler’s planned Führermuseum in Linz.

In 2013, his son, Cornelius Gurlitt, was found to be hiding works in his Munich apartment, having done so for decades. Gurlitt’s collection continues to draw controversy, and a German task force has been assigned to investigate and trace the works’ lineages.

Their fates remain unsure, as Gurlitt had imparted his collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern upon his death, but his mental state at the time of writing his will is now under question. According to The Art Newspaper, a hearing was held in Munich regarding the case this past Monday, and a decision is expected to made soon.

This is not the first Menzel work to be returned to the family. Just last year, the same task force recommended that another drawing be returned to the descendants of Elsa Helene Cohen, who was the mother-in-law of Elisabeth Linda Martens.

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