The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 19, 2014

A family's 70-year quest to regain treasures stolen by Nazis

(Continued)

Simon Goodman said he and his brother have identified about 400 works as former Gutmann holdings and so far have recovered more than half. About 240 varied pieces, including furnishings and porcelain figures, came in a 2002 settlement with the Dutch government. About 100 significant artworks and furnishings from the Gutmann collection remain at large, he said, and he aims to pursue vanished financial assets as well.

Because there are three primary heirs with three different households — Nick, Simon and their aunt, who needs money to support a disabled granddaughter — selling recovered art and dividing the proceeds usually makes more sense than keeping a piece. Also, Simon said, it’s costly to continue the search, so it’s important to have funds coming in.

Successes include a pair of fabulous gold clocks, made in Germany in the early 1600s, that the paper trail revealed had likely been stolen by a Nazi art dealer after they’d been found by U.S. Army troops but not immediately secured. The museum in Stuttgart, Germany, that had them on display paid to keep them — as did the Dutch Rijksmuseum, in the case of the three silver and gold decorative pieces pictured in Simon’s office.

Simon’s front hallway sports digital replicas of several of the most important recovered paintings. There’s the Degas landscape that remains at the Art Institute of Chicago, a small portrait by Botticelli, and — an outlier because the Gutmanns’ tastes were typically more conservative — “Sensuality,” an 1890s painting by Franz Stuck of a sinister snake with bared fangs, coiled around a welcoming, voluptuously nude temptress.

“I found it about a mile and a half from where I live,” Simon said — in the home of a man who’d received it decades earlier as a gift. Although the restitution required a year or so to present the proof and get a final response, he said the case ultimately came down to simple essentials.

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