Woman won back family art stolen by Nazis, auctions it for $1.5M

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When she grew up in Paris, Pauline Vale De Perignon was always told the same story about her great-grandfather, the Jewish art collector Jules Strauss.

Strauss, a German Jew who lives in Paris, owned a pile of Renoir, Degas, Monet and many other Impressionist photographs. However, the stock market plunge in the 1930s forced him to sell much of his collection, leaving no heirs behind. He died in 1943 at an old age.

Bale de Perignon didn’t question the story until 2014, when he met his cousin’s art dealer at a concert. After talking a bit, he asked: … I think Jules was robbed. “

“I was shocked,” said Veil de Perignon, adding that the revelation was something like “I heard so much information that my brain was so big that it didn’t work properly.” rice field.

One of Strauss’s paintings by the classical painter Nicolas de Largilliers, “Portrait of a Lady as Pomona,” is now auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York City on January 27, after many years of exploration by Vale de Perignon. Can be called. The work was stolen by the Nazis.

“There was a time when I wanted to give up,” 48-year-old Parisian told the post about her nearly five-year fight to get the painting back to the German government. “But I knew it was important … it was a matter of memory, justice, and identity.”

Jules and Marie Louise Strauss-the great-grandparents of Pauline Vale De Perignon-lost their Nazi homes and belongings, but thankfully they did not lose their lives.
Sotheby’s

Baer de Perignon recorded his experience in her new memoir, The Vanished Collection (New Vessel Press), and came to New York to celebrate her victory. Lar Gillier’s painting of the famous Marquis de Parabert, France’s favorite lover, as Pomona, the goddess of fruit and abundance, earns $ 1 to $ 1.5 million at the Sotheby’s auction. Is expected.

And now, Veil de Perignon can tell the real story.

Jules Strauss was born in 1861 in Frankfurt, Germany, to a prominent banker. He moved to Paris in 1880 to work as a forex broker, and by 1884 had gathered Dutch and Flemish masters, and 18th-century French painters like Watto. After World War I, he quit his job and devoted himself to collecting art full-time.

"Vanish collection"

His treasure covered almost every part of the apartment he shared with his wife Marie Louise and her three children. They had to leave the house after France surrendered to Germany in 1940 and the Nazis demanded it.

Two years later, the German task force ERR, who was responsible for the expropriation of a large Jewish art collection, seized a Strauss storage unit consisting of 69 boxes filled with furniture and paintings.

Miraculously, the couple and their children were not deported to the camp.Jules and Marie Louise were baptized because they were desperate to avoid persecution. As a Catholic a year before Jules’ death.

For a long time, Veil de Perignon didn’t know if what his cousin said about the Nazis and the stolen art was true. And in 2016, she found the name “Madame Jules Strauss” while searching the list of allegations against the French Predatory Art Commission in the Predatory Art Archive on the outskirts of Paris. At that time, she found the claim documents filed by Marie Louise in 1945.

“When I saw my great-grandmother’s handwritten file, I knew she had been looted and something had happened,” said Veil de Perignon. “It made me tremble.”

Jules Strauss was very successful in buying and selling art in his collection (above, his apartment) and was able to do a full-time job.
Jules Strauss was very successful in buying and selling art in his collection (above, his apartment) and was able to do a full-time job.
Sotheby’s

She learned as much as she could about her great-grandfather, stitched together his lost collections, scrutinized auction records, interviewed historians, and visited archives in France, England, and Germany. She even consulted Clairvoyant at the moment of desperation.

At the German Federal Archives, she found a 600-page document containing her grandmother Elizabeth’s allegations against the German government from 1958 to 1974. The German government said the listed works were stolen or Germany.

The painting is expected to be between $ 1 million and $ 1.5 million.
The painting is expected to be between $ 1 million and $ 1.5 million.
Stephen Yang

Bert de Perignon eventually came across Larguilier’s “Portrait of a Lady as Pomona” on a website called the Lost Art Foundation in Germany. It arrived at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Museum in Dresden in 1959, where it hung for 60 years.

“I said,’OK, [the museum] I know it was looted, “said Veil de Perignon. “I was a little naive …. It was the beginning of a conversation over the years, it belonged to my great-grandfather, and I had to prove that it was robbed.”

Bale De Perignon scrutinized Strauss’s diary and noticed that he mentioned Largillière twice, stating that it was sold in 1941. The date gave her a pause. Many Jews at the time sold art at a low price after losing their banks. Accounts, property and businesses because they needed cash to escape the country. Later, she found the painting in a catalog of works of art brought to Germany by Nazi collaborator Margot Janson, who turned into a clerk. Jules sold it for CHF400,000, but was listed for CHF4.5 million.

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden hesitated to give it up. The museum said the situation was “complex” and offered to buy paintings, even after the investigation concluded that the sale of Strauss was compulsory. 2018 from family.

“This was the second compulsory sale. It was a return provided that we agreed to sell the painting to the museum,” Veil De Perignon wrote. “When they talked about the’complex’situation and forced us to agree to sell the painting back, did this, in a sense, deny that it was stolen? So did you deny the history of Jules? “

Jules Strauss died in 1943, before the end of World War II.
Jules Strauss died in 1943, before the end of World War II.
Lamy Stock Photo

Bale De Perignon was afraid to make the right decision, but refused the offer even before the price was offered. The museum then sent her proceeding to the German Ministry of Arts, Culture and Finance, where it declined for a few more years. Baer de Perignon hired a lawyer specializing in the return of art to assist in editing documents proving the forced sale of paintings. Finally, the museum entered, and in January 2021, a truck arrived at an apartment in Paris with a painting. She won.

She played with the idea of ​​leaving a picture for herself, but knew she couldn’t afford to pay her relatives. (In addition, she said, “I was very scared-children, cats, thieves! I have to alert my place” about the month when “Portrait of a Lady as Pomona” lived with her. The proceeds from the sale were distributed to 20 heirs, who decided to sell it with Sothebys, where Veil de Perignon’s cousin and uncle once. I worked as an art dealer.

The family got another piece. A discreet painting by the Rococo artist Giovanni Thiepolo has been returned to them from the Louvre, and Veil de Perignon is not searching as hard as it once was, but continues to look for others.

“With the sale and the release of the book, it feels like the end of the adventure,” she said.

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