Sunday, October 18, 2015

The tale of "A Regatta on the Grand Canal"

A lengthy dispute over a Venetian regatta scene by Vincenzo Chilone, confiscated from a Jewish family in Nice in 1943, has been resolved by Art Recovery Group.

Following the German invasion of France in 1940, the collaborating government established at Vichy adopted many of the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies, including the systematic confiscation of Jewish property. Among the first art collections in southern France subjected to seizure and forced sale was the extensive collection belonging to John Jaffé, a prominent textile merchant, and his wife Anna.

The Jaffé Collection was considered one of the finest privately-owned art collections in France and comprised works by Goya, Fragonard, Rembrandt, John Constable and JMW Turner. Following the death of Anna Jaffé in 1942, the collection, bequeathed to her niece and three nephews, was promptly seized by pro-Nazi French authorities. Encouraged by Karl Haberstock, a prominent Nazi art dealer, the entire Jaffé Collection, totalling over 200 works of art and property, was deposited at the Hotel du Savoy, Nice, in June 1943 and scattered through a forced sale.

Among them was ‘A Regatta on the Grand Canal’ by Vincenzo Chilone (1758-1839), a small Venetian festival scene valued today at £60,000 ($90,000/€80,000). At the time, the painting was attributed to Bernardo Bellotto, a pupil and close follower of Canaletto’s.

In private hands ever since, ‘A Regatta on the Grand Canal’ last appeared on the open market in 1985 at Sotheby’s, London, and was purchased in good faith by an Italian collector unaware of the work’s history. On notification of the historic claim attached to the Chilone, the collector contacted Art Recovery Group to oversee the restitution process and to organise a just and fair resolution with the Jaffé heirs.

Art Recovery Group reached out to Alain Monteagle, great-nephew of Anna Jaffé and representative of the 11 living claimants to the family’s spoliated collection, and an amicable resolution was agreed shortly thereafter.

Commenting on his family’s restitution efforts, Alain Monteagle, said:

"I’m often asked why we continue to look for looted works of art so long after the end of the war. Firstly, giving up would mean that Hitler and his accomplices have won in one of their aims. The Nazis tried to destroy an entire civilisation, a cultural treasure of mankind, but looking for these looted works helps us to understand our past and the lives of our families some of which have been lost forever.

"But more importantly, if we do nothing then what deterrent does that give for the art looters in many places in the world today? Why would they stop? Or even museums or dealers - why would they care that there are still blood stains on the paintings they buy?"

Christopher A. Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery Group, added:

“We are very pleased that the Jaffé heirs can have closure on a dispute spanning seven decades and we hope that this resolution will encourage the art trade to be more receptive in its recognition of Nazi-era claims. Resolutions like these are only made possible when information about historic losses is shared, so we encourage all claimants to register looted objects at no cost on the ArtClaim Database.”

Pursuant to the terms of a confidential settlement agreement, ‘A Regatta on the Grand Canal’ will be auctioned at Christie's in an upcoming sale.