February 8, 2017
Contact: Richard Loconte, 212-709-1691
DFS Superintendent Vullo Announces 17th Century Painting Lost During Nazi Persecution Restored To Rightful Heirs
Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo today announced that a 17th century painting lost as a result of Nazi persecution has been restored to the Estate of a German-Jewish art dealer through the efforts of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office of the Department of Financial Services (DFS). The Dutch Old Master painting “Young Man as Bacchus” by Jan Franse Verzijl, forced to be sold from Dr. Max Stern’s art gallery in the 1930s due to Nazi persecution, was restored to Dr. Stern’s estate on Wednesday during a ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.
“The return of this painting to Dr. Stern’s estate provides a measure of justice to those who suffered through the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust,” Superintendent Vullo said. “We must continue to fight for justice all around the world, and DFS and HCPO will continue to work alongside other law enforcement agencies to restore property lost or stolen during Nazi persecution to its rightful owners.”
In May of 2015, the Estate of Dr. Stern and HCPO learned through an anonymous tip that the painting was being transported to New York to be exhibited (and sold) at the Spring Masters Fair at the armory. Upon learning that the painting was in New York, HCPO reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and provided information to substantiate the Estate’s claim to the painting. Soon thereafter, the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized the painting and it now has been returned to Dr. Stern’s estate.
A total of 16 works of art have been returned to the Stern estate since 2002 when the estate began pursuing restoration of artwork lost from the Stern collection. The Stern gallery had been established in 1913 and included many Dutch Old Master paintings.
In 1935, the Nazi government notified Dr. Max Stern that he was legally prohibited from buying and selling art because he was Jewish. As a result, Dr. Stern was forced to sell more than 400 pieces from his gallery for a fraction of their market value. Dr. Stern later fled Germany and became a refugee. He eventually settled in Montreal, where he became one of Canada’s most influential and important art dealers. He died in 1987 after bequeathing his assets, including any potential recovery of lost art works to Hebrew University, Concordia and McGill.
HCPO was created in 1997 to help Holocaust victims and their heirs recover lost assets, such as dormant bank accounts, unpaid proceeds of insurance policies and artworks stolen or sold under duress. It is the only government entity in the world that provides such comprehensive services free of charge or commission. To date, HCPO has helped return over $174 million in assets to victims’ families while also recovering 130 works of art.