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Press Release
Painting Lost Due to Nazi Persecution Returned to Stern Estate
Restitution Ceremony Held Today in Berlin, Germany

December 10, 2008

New York, N.Y.: The New York State Banking Department’s Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) today announced the restitution of a 16th century painting attributed to Jan Wellens de Cock to its rightful owner, the Estate of Dr. Max Stern. This painting is the fifth, of several hundred listed in the claim filed by Dr. Stern’s estate, to be recovered. The Estate has recently prevailed in their case against German born Baroness Maria-Louise Bissonnette for the restitution of The Girl from the Sabine Mountains by famed court painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Christie’s will deliver the de Cock to Concordia University, one of the beneficiaries of the Stern Estate, at the offices of University of Toronto in Berlin, Germany today, Dec. 10.

“I am pleased to see that cooperation between the HCPO and Christie’s has again resulted in the return of property lost due to Nazi persecution to the Max Stern Estate,” New York State Banking Superintendent Richard H. Neiman said. “I thank all those involved in the negotiation process for their diligence in this matter.”

As a person of Jewish descent, Dr. Stern, owner of the Galerie Stern in Düsseldorf, did not fit the membership requirements of the Reich Chamber of Culture (RKK) and in 1935 was legally prohibited from buying and selling art in Germany. Based on research carried out by the HCPO and the Estate on the painting’s provenance history, it became clear that the persecution Dr. Stern suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime compelled him to sell the painting.

Dr. Clarence Epstein, Director of Special Projects and Cultural Affairs at Concordia University, heads up the Max Stern Art Restitution Project and will receive the painting as the Estate’s representative.

”Once again we are grateful to the HCPO’s tireless efforts on behalf of the Estate of Max Stern and its three university beneficiaries,” said Epstein. “We are confident that with their ongoing assistance we will continue to reach similarly amicable resolutions.”

After due diligence and cataloguing research, Christie’s traced the painting back to 1936 with links to the Galerie Stern. Upon this discovery, Christie's notified the consignor and subsequently the Stern Estate and the HCPO, at which point negotiations for the return of the de Cock commenced.   Monica Dugot, Senior Vice President and International Director of Restitution for Christie’s said: "We are delighted to have facilitated a resolution in this matter. This good result was achieved through the goodwill and cooperation of all involved."

The painting, according to a 1970s Christie’s  catalogue of Highly Important Picture from the Collection formed by the Late Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, depicts “[t]he Holy family in the centre, with a burning idol to left and a woman refusing them lodging to right; in the background Herod’s soldiers in pursuit.” The painting has been attributed to Jan Wellens de Cock, originally from Leiden, Netherlands but later settled in Antwerp, Belgium.

The HCPO is a division of the New York State Banking Department.  It was created in 1997 to help Holocaust victims and their heirs recover: assets deposited in banks; unpaid proceeds of insurance policies issued by European insurers; and artworks that were lost, looted or sold under duress.  The HCPO does not charge claimants for its services.  To date, the HCPO has helped return over $132 million in bank claims, insurance claims, and other assets, and has assisted in securing the return of 26 works of art. 

The New York State Banking Department is the regulator for all state-chartered banking institutions, virtually all of the United States offices of international banking institutions, all of the State’s mortgage brokers, mortgage bankers, check cashers, money transmitters and budget planners. The aggregate assets of the depository institutions supervised by the Banking Department are more than $2.2 trillion.

In addition to regulating banking institutions, the Banking Department is active in informing and educating all New Yorkers on banking matters. To contact the Banking Department, please call 1-877-BANK-NYS or visit our Web site at www.banking.state.ny.us.