May 4, 2023
Superintendent Adrienne A. Harris Announces Restitution of 19th Century German Impressionist Painting to the Heirs of Gustav Rüdenberg
The City of Frankfurt and the Städelsches Kunstinstitut Settle Claim for
Portrait of Lady by Fritz von Uhde
Today New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) Superintendent Adrienne A. Harris announced that the City of Frankfurt and Städelsches Kunstinstitut (“the Städel”) Museum restituted the painting Portrait of Lady by Fritz von Uhde to the heirs of Gustav Rüdenberg. Portait of a Lady is one of the few works from the Gustav Rüdenberg collection to have survived the Nazi Regime and World War II.
"The resolution of this claim was a culmination of the hard work and dedication of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office and its partnership with the Städel," said Superintendent of Financial Services Adrienne A. Harris. "This settlement provides a measure of closure and justice for the Rüdenberg family, preserving Gustav Rüdenberg’s legacy as a collector and important member of the art community.”
Gustav Rüdenberg (1868-1941) was the owner of a mail-order business for photography and optical instruments in Hanover, Germany. During the 1910s, he built his art collection of German Impressionist and Expressionist works and helped establish the prestigious art society Kestner-Gesellschaft, which promoted contemporary art and photography in Germany. Rüdenberg acquired the von Uhde painting at an October 17, 1916 auction at the Galerie Hugo Helbing, and it remained in his collection until April 1937 when he sold the work under duress, well below market value, to the City of Frankfurt. Within a year of the sale, the Hannover financial authorities began to systematically dispossess Rüdenberg of his property, and the remainder of his art collection was seized by order of the city authorities and deposited at the local museum. On December 15, 1941, Rüdenberg and his wife Elsbeth were deported to Riga, Latvia, where they perished.
While researching the collection of Max Rüdenberg, who was a cousin of Gustav Rüdenberg, the HCPO came across an annotated copy of the 1916 Helbing catalogue that noted Rüdenberg as the purchaser of the von Uhde painting, but did not give a first name. After determining that the painting was in the Städel Museum, the HCPO reached out to the museum for additional information and learned that the museum was simultaneously undertaking further research into its provenance. The museum confirmed that the painting was owned by Gustav Rüdenberg. The HCPO, together with the Städel, identified and located Gustav’s heirs, some of whom were already working with the HCPO in connection with their longstanding claim for Max Rüdenberg’s art collection.
The HCPO is a unit of the New York State Department of Financial Services. 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 responded to thousands of inquiries and received claims from 46 states and 39 countries. The office has helped secure over $183 million in offers for bank, insurance, and other losses. The office facilitated settlements involving 232 cultural objects.