SOTHEBY'S RESTITUTED PAINTING
March 21st 2010
by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot
Auction: June 2nd 2010
On Wednesday, June 2, 2010, Sotheby's London will offer for sale one of the finest figure paintings by JeanBaptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) ever to have appeared on the market. Estimated at £800,000-1,200,000, Jeune femme à la fontaine enjoyed an exceptional early provenance before it was requisitioned during the Nazi period. It has now been restituted to the heirs of its erstwhile owners and will be one of the centrepieces of Sotheby's forthcoming sale of 19th Century European Paintings. Jeune femme à la fontaine's journey through history provides a story that is as compelling as those behind the restituted works by Gustav Klimt and Hendrick Goltzius recently sold at Sotheby's.
The first owner was Ernest Hoschedé (d. 1891), an important early patron of Claude Monet, from whom he commissioned decorative panels for his residence just south of Paris, the Château de Rottembourg in Montgeron. Following financial difficulties, the Hoschedé family moved into a house in Vétheuil with Monet, his wife Camille and his children. Hoschedé's wife, Alice, eventually married Monet following their respective spouses' deaths.
The second owner was Charles Alluaud (1861-1949), scion of the family that had directed the porcelain factory in Limoges since the eighteenth century. During his childhood, he and his brother, Eugène, had received painting instruction from Corot himself and it is likely that this relationship led to Alluaud's acquisition of the present work.
The next documented owner of Jeune femme à la fontaine is Eduard Ludwig Behrens, senior who was born in Hamburg in 1824 and had been one of the early directors of the city's private banking firm of Levy Behrens & Söhne. He acquired the painting in 1889. Upon his death he bequeathed his large and important art collection to his son Eduard Ludwig Behrens, junior, who left it, in turn, to his son Georg.
In 1925, Georg lent the Behrens' paintings collection to the city of Hamburg for a period of ten years. On the expiry of this agreement, Georg attempted to send the collection to the safety of Switzerland, but was informed on 1st April 1935 by the Nazi authorities that the present work and a number of other key works from the Behrens collection had been included on the Verzeichnis der national wertvollen Kunstwerke (list of works considered to be of national significance).
In May 1938, the Behrens banking firm was Aryanised and the following November Georg was arrested in Hamburg and then sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he was interned until the end of December. He then immigrated to Belgium in April 1939. In order to obtain his exit visa he had to pawn all of his possessions to the State. From Belgium he moved to France where, following the outbreak of the Second World War, he was interned in a camp in the south of France. In the autumn of 1940 he obtained a visa for Cuba where he finally found his freedom. After the war, Georg Eduard Behrens returned to Hamburg and died in that city in 1956, never having recovered the Corot.
In 1941 the painting surfaced under the auspices of Berlin art dealer H.W. Lange. Shortly thereafter, Lange purchased the work for the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo using money from a fund set up in 1941 by the Nazis. The purpose of the fund was to help the museum purchase new works for its collection after three of its paintings, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Baldung Grien and Barthel Bruyn the Elder, had been requisitioned for display in the Führermuseum in Linz. The fund was in effect a smokescreen to give the impression that this was an exchange rather than the confiscation it really was.
In 1998, in response to an initiative by the Netherlands Museum Association, the museum attempted to trace the origins of various works acquired during the period 1940-1948. Following considerable research conducted by the representatives of the heirs, it was confirmed that the original owner parted with the work involuntarily and, as a result, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science decreed that Jeune femme à la fontaine be returned to the heirs of Georg Eduard Behrens in 2008 after 66 years in the museum's collection. Sotheby's sale will allow collectors the opportunity to provide the next chapter in the painting's history.
Jeune femme à la fontaine can be ranked among Corot's finest figure paintings of the 1860s and 1870s. The classical pose and modelling of the figure evoke the iconic female figures of Renaissance masters Leonardo and Raphael. It was during and following trips to Italy in the 1820s, 1830s and 1840s that Corot was inspired to create his series of Italian peasant girls. While the present work was painted decades after these sojourns, it was certainly painted from the artist's idealised memories of the Italian women he encountered, and is imbued with a melancholy and pensive intimacy.
*Estimates do not include buyer's premium
On February 3, 2010, Sotheby's sold Gustav Klimt's beautiful, jewel-like Kirche in Cassone for £26,921,250 / $43,208,606 / €30,725,246 - well in excess of the pre-sale estimate of £12-18 million and establishing a new auction record for a landscape by the artist. Once part of one of the greatest early collections of Klimt's work - that of the Austro-Hungarian iron magnate and collector Victor Zuckerkandl and his wife Paula - the work went missing in Vienna during the Nazi period and only resurfaced decades later. It was offered for sale pursuant to an agreement between Georges Jorisch, the now 81-year old great nephew of the original owner, and the European private collector in whose family the painting had been for several years.
On January 28, 2010 at Sotheby's in New York, an artist record was set for the monumental masterpiece Jupiter and Antiope by the great seventeenth-century Dutch artist Hendrick Goltzius when it sold to a European Private Collector for $6,802,500 / £4,186,669 / €4,859,033. Executed in 1612, the painting was formerly in the collection of Abraham Adelsberger (18631940), a German Jew whose heirs were forced to sell the picture to Nazi leader Hermann Göring. Following the War the painting was recovered by the Allied forces and sent to the Dutch Government, and in March 2009, the painting was restituted to the heirs of its original owner, Abraham Adelsberger.
Other major works sold at auction by Sotheby's following restitution or settlement
- Egon Schiele's Krumauer Landschaft (Stadt und Fluss) sold in London in June 2003 for £12.6 million - then the highest price ever paid for a restituted work. Restituted to the heirs of Daisy Hellmann in 2003.
- Hendrick Ter Brugghen's Bagpipe Player in profile sold for $10,162,500 in New York in January 2009. Restituted to the heirs of Dr. Herbert von Klemperer, July 2008.
- Kasimir Malevich's Suprematist Composition sold for $60m in New York in November 2008. The painting had been featured in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam for 50 years before being restituted to heirs of the artist's family.
- Two bronze busts by Franz Xavier Messerschmidt (1736-83) - sold in New York in January 2005. The two works sold for $4.8m and $2.4 million respectively. (The first was a record for any eighteenth-century sculpture at auction.) They had originally belonged to the Viennese playwright Richard Beer-Hofmann, but were seized by the Nazis in 1938 and were transferred to the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien. Restituted to the heirs of Dr. Richard Beer-Hofmann in 2003.
- Edgar Degas' Danseuse rajustant sa sandale sold in London in February 2008 for £4,948,500. This work was offered pursuant to an agreement between the heir of Carl Henry Newman and the present owner.
Sotheby's and Restitution
- Sotheby's was the first international auction house to open a department dedicated to provenance research and restitution. Founded in 1997, the department is comprised of a team of restitution experts in London and New York, supplemented by consultants as necessary.
- In addition to reviewing the provenance of works of art consigned for sale, the department supports the heirs of displaced property and their advisors at all stages of the restitution process, from initial research to recovery and export. Sotheby's has been actively involved in a large number of restitution cases and has unparalleled experience in the field.
- In course of the last 11 years, Sotheby's has sold nearly $250m of restituted art.
Sotheby's is a global company that engages in art auction, private sales and art-related financing activities. The Company operates in 40 countries, with principal salesrooms located in New York, London, Hong Kong, and Paris. The Company also regularly conducts auctions in six other salesrooms around the world. Sotheby's is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BID.