17th century Dutch portrait that was looted by Nazis sells at auction

A painting by a Dutch master that was looted by Nazis during the Second World War has been sold at auction for $50,000.

Caspar Netscher’s Portrait Of Steven Wolters from 1683 went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on Thursday afternoon, with the money going back to the original owners.

Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck, 101, had spent decades searching for the missing portrait, which was part of her father Dr Smidt van Gelder’s collection of Dutch old master paintings.Mrs Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck visits a framer where she sees the painting for the first time in 80 years (Courtesy of the family of Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck/PA)Mrs Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck visits a framer where she sees the painting for the first time in 80 years.

The work had been stored in the Amsterdamsche Bank in Arnhem for safekeeping during the war until it was stolen in 1945 by German soldiers.

Eight of his paintings were recovered by authorities after the war but six more could not be found and remained missing.

Mrs Bischoff van Heemskerck spent years looking for the portrait and around 15 years ago came across the painting in an exhibition at the Slot Zeist palace in the Netherlands.

She previously described how her “heart stood still”, but later discovered that the painting was a copy.

A years-long investigation launched by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe eventually tracked down the work and it was returned to the family in 2021.Caspar Netscher, Portrait of Steven Wolters (Sotheby’s/PA)Portrait of Steven Wolters

The portrait is the second painting to be found and returned to the family in recent years through the commission, following the restitution of Jacob Ochtervelt’s The Oyster Meal in 2017, which sold at Sotheby’s in July 2018 for $2million.

When the painting was listed with Sotheby’s, Mrs Bischoff van Heemskerck said: “I was so happy to see the painting again which always hung behind my chair in the dining room. We all missed this painting very much because it was so much part of our daily life.

“It is a beautiful painting, beautifully painted, with its subtle combination of colours on the wonderful coat and the expression on the face of the sitter which shows him to be a generous man, an impressive man.”

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