Dutch woman recovers art looted by Nazis during WWII and auctions it off at Sotheby’s

The feeling of recovering a precious asset after several years was clearly visible on the face of a 101-year-old Dutch woman. She had recovered a painting looted by the Nazis from her father during World War II. The work is the portrait of Steven Wolters, which was created by a Dutch master Caspar Netscher in 1683. Several paintings by Netscher are in the National Gallery in London. The wife, Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck, is a non-practicing Baptist. She joined the Dutch resistance during the war and never gave up hope of recovering this painting. Now, after six months of obtaining the painting, she is looking to auction it at Sotheby’s in London to ensure her family benefits from the sale proceeds.

This much-loved possession of his father Joan Hendrik Smidt van Gelder was first placed in his childhood home in Arnhem. Joan was a doctor and director of a children’s hospital in the city. He had gone into hiding after refusing to accept Nazi orders after the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.


After the attack on the Netherlands, Joan stored the artwork at the Amsterdam Bank in Arnhem. Hence, it was looted by the Nazis. During the chaos of war, the painting disappeared. The London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe said that in the mid-1950s it surfaced in a Düsseldorf gallery. Later, in 1969, it was auctioned in Amsterdam and was acquired by a private collector in Germany in 1971. After negotiations with the collector, the painting was returned to Bischoff van Heemskerck in 2021.

On seeing him again, the Dutchwoman told the Guardian: “I was amazed”. Now the painting will go up for auction on July 6 and could fetch between £30,000 and £50,000.

(With agency contributions)


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Post expires at 10:30am on Thursday June 23rd, 2022