German Museum Rejects Restitution Claim

Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Photo: Mattes Babel via Wikimedia Commons

The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen has turned down a restitution claim from the descendants of banker Carl Hagen (1856-1938) for the return of the painting Das Zitronenscheibchen (1667) by Jacob Ochtervelt, Art Daily  reports. According to the museum, the evidence provided does not support their claim that the painting was unlawfully acquired due to Nazi persecution.

After extensive research, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen has come to the conclusion that the civil servant Carl Thürling was the owner of Das Zitronenscheibchen when the painting hit the auction block in 1938. Carl Hagen and the bank Hagen & Co., merely held security interests in the painting as Thürling had used it along with twenty other artworks as collateral to secure a six figure loan in the 1920s.

When Thürling was unable to repay the loan, security was enforced by the Hagen & Co. bank and Das Zitronenscheibchen was subsequently sold to the collectors Johannes Hinrichesn and Hans Bammann in 1938 for 35,000 reichsmark. Shortly afterwards, the painting came to the collection of the industrialist Fritz Thyssen from whom the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung acquired it in 1992.

The descendants of Carl Hagen requested the restitution of Das Zitronensheibchen from the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in 2012. According to German law, an artwork may only be restituted if it was expropriated under threat of persecution. This does not apply to the painting in question as the rightful owner, Thürling, lost the painting because he had defaulted on his loan. It has also emerged that Thürling was in fact a member of the Nazi Party, and did not belong to any group persecuted by the Nazis.

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