The Stuttgart Museum has returned the masterpiece “Virgin and Child” done by Flemalle to the estate of Max Stern a German born Jewish dealer. Stern fled the Nazis and later operated a gallery, the Dominion Gallery in Montreal. The ceremony of restitution took place in Berlin at the Canadian Embassy.
The return of the art work marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Galerie Julius Stern in Dusseldorf and also the 10th anniversary of the Max Stern Art Restitution Project. It is widely believed that at least 400 works of art that once belonged to Stern has still not been recovered. In 1935, Stern was banned from working as an art dealer. He closed his business and 228 works from his gallery were auctioned at Mathias Lempertz in Cologne in 1937. Some of his other art from him and his mother’s personal collection left on consignment were seized.
The “Virgin and Child” was sold with other works are Stern fled to London. Although there is no bill of sale that survived, the painting came into the hands of a Frankfurt art dealer Alexander Haas, who later sold it to Dr, Scheufelen in 1939. In 1948, works from Scheufelen’s collection were exhibited at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 118 of them including the “Virgin and Child” were willed to the museum.
It was hard to trace the painting as Stern’s business records were destroyed when his London flat was bombed. Three universities are beneficiaries of Stern’s estate namely Concordia, McGill University (Montreal) and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The claim has been supported by the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Department of Financial Services, who researched the paintings history and correspondence with the Staatsgalerie.