Provenance research on acquisitions made by Museum Wiesbaden between 1935 and 1944

Funding area:
Nazi-looted cultural property
Funding recipient:
Museum Wiesbaden
Federal state:
Contact person:
Miriam Olivia Merz

Position Provenienzforscherin der Zentralen Stelle für Provenienzforschung Hessen (am Museum Wiesbaden angesiedelt)

Tel.+49 (0) 611 335 2275

Type of project:
long-term project

From July 2009 to December 2014, systematic provenance research was conducted in a series of three projects at Museum Wiesbaden. The research focused on the provenance of 140 paintings which had been acquired for the art collection between 1935 and 1945. Through this work, it was possible to investigate the provenance of more than half of the 211 paintings that entered the museums collection under the aegis of Hermann Voss, the former director of the Gemäldegalerie Wiesbaden (Wiesbaden Painting Gallery).

Alongside his position as museum director in Wiesbaden, Hermann Voss was appointed Sonderbeauftragter (special representative) for the planned Führermuseum in Linz in March 1943, a leading role within National Socialist cultural policy that encompassed a number of other close connectionsVoss was also the Sonderbeauftragter (special representative) to the Führer and director of the State Painting Gallery in Dresden. Because of these factors, Museum Wiesbaden has an ongoing responsibility to research and set out its own history as an institution.

The circumstances of the acquisitions for the Gemäldegalerie Wiesbaden in the above-mentioned period are partially known from documents in the museums archive, but these are not accessible in the form of a finding aid. They primarily consist of correspondence between the gallery director Hermann Voss and the city of Wiesbaden on the subject of purchases of paintings. Letters exchanged between art dealers and Hermann Voss concerning individual acquisitions have also been preserved, but only in rare cases do these provide information on the origin of the object in question.

So far, as a result of the provenance research, it has been possible to rule out the suspicion of confiscation as a result of Nazi persecution for 20 of the objects acquired. Evidence of confiscation as a result of Nazi persecution was detected for four paintings; each of these has now been restituted to the heirs of its former owner. For the majority of the acquisitions, it has not been possible to date to fully clarify their provenance as part of the research.

During the last sub-project (January to December 2014), the examination of the provenance of the painting Die Labung (The Refreshment) by Hans von Marées, which was donated to the collection in 1980, was given priority due to a chance discovery as a side result of the provenance research on acquisitions from the period 19351945. The painting was restituted to the heirs of Max Silberberg in April 2014 and subsequently re-purchased for Museum Wiesbadens collection.

Looking ahead: The Zentrale Stelle für Provenienzforschung Hessen (Central Office for Provenance Research in Hesse) began its work in January 2015. The office is based at Landesmuseum Wiesbaden. First of all, the two provenance researchers plan to compare the state of research at the museums in Wiesbaden, Darmstadt and Kassel. Then, working in conjunction with the museums, they will create a list of suspect artworks that may have been confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution. In this context, it will also be possible to research the provenance of the 60 acquisitions from the period 19351945 in Museum Wiesbaden which still need to be examined.

(c) Museum Wiesbaden