Cummer Museum to keep art work stolen by Nazis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A cherished painting at the Cummer Museum hung on the wall for many years, then the original owners said it was stolen, and they wanted it back.

But the Cummer was able to work out a deal to buy the painting and everyone there is thrilled.

The painting is called Vanitas, and it has been at the Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens since 1962. They purchased it from a New York art gallery. But two years ago the museum learned that it had stolen by the Nazis in the 1940's.

The 17th century painting by Jacques de Claeuw was owned by Dutch art collector Jacques Goudstrikker who fled the Netherlands before the Nazi invasion in 1940. Goudstrikker died at sea but his family had a detailed inventory of his art.

1400 pieces were stolen by German Reichsmarshalll Herman Goring from Goudstrikker's gallery. The collector's daughter in law, Marei Von Saher, asked for it back 2 years ago.

The Cummer Museum board decided to return it earlier this year after much research. The museum's willingness to return it was a big reason the Goudstrikker's heir agreed to sell it to the museum..

"It has always been on a wall , some wall at the museum," said Holly Keris, the museum's cheif curator. "Most recently in 2011 as part of our 50th anniversary, this painting was actually voted by our visitors as one of their 50 favorite paintings in the museum, so it means a lot to this community."

Clay county natives Greg and Christina Willson , visiting from South Carolina, were impressed with the still-life painting during a museum visit. They were happy to hear it will remain at the museum that opened in 1961, a year before it obtained the work of art.

"It is amazing that the Cummer has had it for that long , and just a little that I knew about the story, it is amazing that it gets to stay here," said Greg.

"It is a story of people working together and maybe sacrificing a little for other people to enjoy a piece of art work that meant so much to them," said Christina.

The painting is 337 years old and now visitors to the Cummer Museum will be able to enjoy it for many years to come. It was painted by the Dutch artist De Claeuw in 1677.


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