Suzanne Muchnic of the Los Angeles Times uses the occasion of the recent appellate court ruling on the Norton Simon Museum’s Cranach paintings to re-tell the convoluted story of their provenance. The official version is that the pictures were seized by the Bolsheviks from the Stroganoff family and sold to Jacques Gouldstikker who in turn had to flee the Netherlands when the Nazis invaded. His property was taken by Goering. The Stroganoff’s made claims after the war and received the Cranachs as restitution whereupon they sold them to Norton Simon.
The current dispute comes from one of Gouldstikker’s heirs who received other works as restitution but not the ones taken by Goering. (Got that? If not, read the story.) Here’s the alternative view of the chain of ownership:
The “Adam” and “Eve” pair has been a fixture in Pasadena for decades. But as Holocaust restitution research has escalated, a sketchy alternate version of their history has emerged. Unearthed documents indicate that the Cranachs were hidden in several locations in Kiev from 1919 to 1929, when they were sent to Leningrad in preparation for the Berlin auction.
No one disputes that the paintings were sold in the Stroganoff auction. But a case study in the American Assn. of Museums’ Guide to Provenance Research concludes that the Cranachs were among works from various sources added to the sale to give them a “noble” provenance and disguise the fact that they were actually being sold by the government.
There is no evidence that the Cranachs belonged to the Stroganoffs, said Amy Walsh, curator of Dutch and Flemish paintings and head of provenance research at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and one of three authors of the AAM guide. But many questions remain about the ownership of the paintings.
The Norton Simon Museum is Battling to Keep Adam and Eve (Los Angeles Times)