Meike Hoffmann: Lecture- The Mosse Art Research Initiative

The Mosse Art Research Initiative (MARI): A Beacon of International Provenance Research

Meike Hoffmann poster

Thank you all for being here. And thank you especially to the Center for German and European Studies for making this talk possible. My name is Skye Doney and I am the Director of the George L. Mosse Program in History, one of the co-sponsors of this afternoon.

It is my pleasure to introduce to you Dr. Meike Hoffmann. I first met Dr. Hoffmann last summer in Berlin during a conference we organized to assess the legacy of Mosse, George L. Mosse’s historical work in the fields of German Judaism, the history of sexuality, and fascism. There she gave an important paper, which I hope we will hear more about today, that helps to overturn one of the most troubling myths about the Mosse family: that they were on the verge of financial ruin when they fled the Nazis in the 1930s. This was a lie that the Nazis perpetuated to justify seizing Mosse family estates and property, including the art collection of Rudolf Mosse. Dr. Hoffmann’s research is crucial for breaking down this National Socialist propaganda. And you will be able to read her essay next year in the conference volume Professor Sunny Yudkoff and I are putting together. That book will come out in the George L. Mosse Press Series at UW Press.

Dr. Hoffmann organized the first academic training on provenance research at the Free University of Berlin where she also received her PhD and now teaches at the department of history and cultural studies on Degenerate Art, and Nazi art policy during the Third Reich. She was a member of the Taskforce Schwabing Art Trove and participated in the follow-up research project on the Gurlitt collection. Since March 2017, Hoffmann has directed the Mosse Art Research Initiative (MARI) at FU Berlin. MARI is the first project in provenance research executed by public German institutions in cooperation with the descendants of the victims of Nazi persecution, in this case the descendants of the Rudolf and Emilie Mosse. She has published widely in the field of her expertise and is author, for example, of the Gurlitt biography Hitlers Kunsthändler–Hildebrand Gurlitt (C.H. Beck Munich, 2016).

Her talk today is titled, “The Mosse Art Research Initiative (MARI): A Beacon of International Provenance Research.”

So please join me in welcoming her to Madison.

Hoffmann - Slide 1

Meike Hoffmann:

Thank you, thank you, thank you very much for the friendly introduction, Skye.

I would also like to thank the other organizers of this event for the invitation.

I am very pleased to be able to speak today in Madison about the Mosse Art Research Initiative, in a place, where the name of the Mosse family is so well known and where George L. Mosse had such a great impact on the development of the humanities.

On March 1, 2017, and you already heard it from Skye, Rudolf Mosse’s heirs together with Freie Universität Berlin founded the Mosse Art Research Initiative, in short MARI. This opened a new chapter in the research of cultural objects confiscated or otherwise lost due to persecution during the Nazi regime. For the first time, descendants of the victims of racial persecution were ready to cooperate with German institutions. The initiative was pioneered in particular by two individuals, Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, then still general secretary of the Kulturstiftung der Länder, today Minister for Culture and Science, North Rhine Westphalia, and Hermann Parzinger, president of Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

MARI is innovative in many ways and has great relevance in terms of cultural policy. The sides, that are usually diametrically opposed to one another in the debate over restitution –– descendants making claims and institutions confronted with these claims – here work together in a highly transparent network to create important impulses for future knowledge generation in the realm of contexts of confiscation under the Nazi regime, thus providing, excuse me, a sustainable contribution to the culture of memory in Germany.

What is MARI about?

Slide 2: Aufgaben von MARI

MARI’s focus is placed on the former art collection of Rudolf Mosse (1843–1920). Concretely speaking, at issue is the content of the collection, its significance at the time, and the whereabouts of individual works, after the liquidation of the collection by the Nazi regime.

At the same time, the project also seeks to establish findings about the mechanisms of the so-called “Gleichschaltung,” which is maybe something like “consolidation,” after the Nazis came to power in 1933, the situation of persecution that the Mosse family was subjected to, and their individual paths of emigration. Using these findings, we hope to grasp the full extent of the family’s fate and the consequences that continue until today.

And before I go more into detail about the project, I would first like to answer another question: Who exactly was Rudolf Mosse?

Slide 3: Photo Rudolf Mosse

This question doesn’t really need to be posed in Berlin as well as in Madison: as one of the most influential figures of the economic elite in the late nineteenth century, the name of the Jewish-German publisher Rudolf Mosse is closely linked to the history of the former German Empire capital.

But beyond that, a great deal about Rudolf Mosse and his wonderful achievements has been forgotten. Therefore, in the following I would like to recall several stations in the life of this important publisher.

Slide 4: Photo Rudolf Mosse, Verlagshaus Friedrichstraße

In 1861, Rudolf Mosse moved to Berlin from his hometown of Grätz in the Prussian province of Posen at age 18, several years later founding the company Annoncen-Expedition Rudolf Mosse. The name of the company referred to the idea of leasing pages in newspapers to place advertisements and thus bring the manufacturers directly in contact with the customers.

Before Mosse, advertising one’s goods was frowned upon; it was only the aesthetic design of the advertising pages that Mosse introduced [that] allowed advertising to discard its bad reputation. During the boom years of the late nineteenth century and the industrialization of printing, the Mosse business rapidly became a success model, since the newspaper publishers also profited from it: The more advertisements a newspaper or magazine printed, the cheaper they could be sold. In the shortest time, Mosse became the most important advertiser in Germany. Just five years later, he had over 250 branch offices in Germany and abroad.

Slide 5: Familie

Having now become an affluent man, in 1874 he married Emilie Loewenstein, the daughter of a merchant family. Erna Felicia, Rudolf Mosse’s child from a different relationship, was adopted by Emilie.

Slide 6: Neues Verlagshaus, Innenräume

The next step in his career took Rudolf Mosse from the realm of advertising to publishing. 1903, he moved into his new building, located at the corner of Jerusalemer and Schützenstraße – in the midst of the developing newspaper district in Berlin.

Mosse’s publishing house was outfitted with the latest technology and offered a modern, worker-friendly environment, as was proudly announced in postcards. Mosse-Verlag published daily newspapers, popular magazines, and nearly 130 specialist journals, along with exhibition catalogues, art publications, and much more.

Slide 7: Neues Verlagshaus, Berliner Tageblatt

Berliner Tageblatt, which had been published by Mosse since 1871, became the journalistic pride of the company and the leading Berlin newspaper.

Slide 8: Neues Verlagshaus, Berliner Tageblatt, Theodor Wolff

As editor-in-chief, Theodor Wolff (1868-1943) made a key contribution to the heyday of the paper in the 1910s and 1920s. Wolff gave the newspaper a bourgeois liberal line in the sense of a pan-European international understanding and democratic reforms. He succeeded in bringing the elite of German journalism and prominent authors and scholars to write for the newspaper, including the German-born physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the German-Jewish journalist Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935), the journalist Egon Erwin Kisch (1885-1948) from Czechoslovakia, the German author Erich Kästner (1899-1974), and the publisher Peter Suhrkamp (1891-1959). In this way, Berliner Tageblatt became the voice of an entire era, and sometimes was even called the “German Times.”

Slide 9: Neues Verlagshaus, Eckgestaltung, Relief

The corner design of the publishing house’s headquarters in an art nouveau style was dominated by a huge relief with a female nude. Rudolf Mosse explained the depiction as an allegory of truth, since – as he put it – nothing but the naked truth gets reported in his newspapers. In her left hand, the female nude, the female figure holds an owl, in her right a mirror, which along with the allegory of truth can be read as an expansive symbol for the reflection of wisdom.

Slide 10: Neues Verlagshaus, Spartakus Aufstand

Mosse’s era ended with the fall of the German Empire. After German defeat in the First World War, and the establishment of the Republic, which was called into existence on November 9, 1918 – virtually simultaneously by the Social Democrats and the Socialist Spartacus Movement – the left-wing extremists radicalized, and initiated in the early days of 1919 the Spartacist Uprising.

The revolutionaries occupied the printing presses of the social democratic newspapers and conditions approaching civil war took hold. Mosse’s publishing house was also occupied by the rebels. The building, especially the corner decoration, was seriously damaged by gunfire. On January 11, 1919, the initially provisional Council of the People’s Deputies crushed the uprising. Just a few months later, the Weimar Constitution took effect, and the monarchy was replaced with a parliamentary democracy.

Slide 11: Umgestaltung Mendelsohn

Although some of Rudolf Mosse’s political goals were achieved, he did not feel up to the challenges posed by the new governmental system, and withdrew from the business in 1919 at age 75. A short while later, in September 1920, he died of heart failure at his country estate, Rittergut Schenkendorf.

From then on, Mosse’s stepson Hans Lachmann-Mosse took over the business. Between 1921 and 1923, the new head of the publishing house, had the headquarters completely redesigned by the architect Erich Mendelsohn. His design was a paradigmatic example for the so-called streamlined modernism, that can be considered a symbol for the progressive-dynamic Berlin of the 1920s.

Slide 12: Rekonstruktion nach Zweiten Weltkrieg

The building, reconstructed in Berlin after being destroyed in the Second World War, attests still today to the legacy of the publisher Rudolf Mosse.

Slide 13: Rekonstruktion nach Zweiten Weltkrieg

And just this morning, I received a flyer from a historian in Berlin, of which I show you two pages here. The historian [Holger Siemann] started an initiative to commemorate Rudolf Mosse because of his generous philanthropy, and with the support of his local home association, he is trying to claim the name Rudolf Mosse back for a street, as it was already the case in the days after the German Empire. The former street is located under the asphalt on the photo on the right, near a sports field, that already existed at that time, hence the football in Mosse’s hand.

Slide 14: Lenbach Portrait, Mosse im Museum, Löwe in der James Simon Galerie

Besides these efforts, hardly anyone is familiar with Mosse’s art collection, with Mosse as an art collector, as patron, a promoter of cultural projects, and a friend of numerous artists.

A public acknowledgement of his work as a philanthropist in the cultural realm took place for the first time in 2017 at the exhibition “Mosse im Museum” (Mosse at the Museum) at Berlin’s Ägyptisches Museum. And for a few months now, a prominent work from the former collection of Rudolf Mosse, the Reclining Lion by August Gaul, recalls his importance as an art patron in Berlin. The lion is on exhibit at the new James Simon Galerie, a reception building for the visitors to Museum Island, Berlin Museum Island, with connections to the Pergamon Museum, Neues Museum with Nefertiti, and Alte Nationalgalerie with art from the nineteenth century. James Simon was a contemporary of Rudolf Mosse, and just like him an art collector and philanthropist. His name in contribution with the lion sculpture is intended to honor the tradition of Berlin patronage, which was so important for the cultural life of the capital.

Who was Rudolf Mosse in reality, what art did he collect? And what can we learn about him from his collection?

Slide 15: Mosse-Palais am Leipziger-Platz, Stadtplan, Warenhaus Wertheim

In the early 1880s, Mosse had a neo-baroque, majestic three-story city residence erected on Leipziger Platz, that was designed by the Berlin architects Gustav Ebe and Julius Benda, highly esteemed at the time.

The chosen location attested to Mosse’s self-confidence. Mosse Palais, facing Leipziger Platz, right next to the glamorous department store Wertheim, was part of worldly cosmopolitan city life. The court side on Vossstraße was right in the middle of the government district of the empire. As a representative of the business elite, Mosse saw himself as holding a position of responsibility in society and politics.

Slide 16: Mosse-Palais, Fries

To symbolize his worldview, in 1883 Rudolf Mosse commissioned the Berlin sculptor Max Klein to create a monumental frieze, visible from afar, for the façade, looking onto Leipziger Platz. The two-meter high frieze with the title Die Erhebung des deutschen Genius (The Rise of German Genius), shows the development of the German Empire in several stages. In the final scene (the chronology reads from left to right), in the final scene, the German eagle triumphs over the Gallic rooster. Mosse obviously wanted to set a monument to the victory of the German states in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871 and thus the long-awaited foundation of the German Empire.

Slide 17: Mosse-Palais, Fries, Segmentgiebel

The frieze is interrupted by a figurative segmental pediment over the balcony niche on the top floor. The scrollwork cartouche, placed at the center, is emblazoned with the initials of Rudolf Mosse: RM. In this way, the owner of the residence inscribed himself right in the middle of German history.

Rudolf Mosse’s childhood was shaped by the March Revolution in 1848, when liberal bourgeois-democratic circles called for the unification of the individual states of the German Confederation and the independence of the German nation as central goals. The struggle against restorative forces of the allied ruling houses also inspired the emancipation movement in the Jewish population, which identified with the German nation despite the antisemitism, dominant in the country.

Slide 18: Mosse-Palais, Beispiele Werke

Mosse’s pride about the triumph of the German nation over France and the newly achieved independence of a state, that seemed to fulfill the demands of the 1848 Revolution, defined not just the frieze, but also the make-up of his art collection.

With the building of Mosse Palais, he began to acquire his first works in the early 1880s. Beside acknowledged masters: such as Adoph von Menzel (1815-1905), Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900), Franz von Lenbach (1836-1904), Anselm Feuerbach (1829-1880), and Reinhold Begas (1831-1911), Mosse also collected works by artists, who were less well known, including Paul Meyerheim (1842-1915), Max Clarenbach (1880-1952), Eduard von Gebhardt (1838-1925), Gustav Eberlein (1847-1926), Walter Schott (1861-1938), and Hugo Lederer (1871-1940). Important for him was not the individual masterpiece, but its inclusion within the current German cultural world: the art collection’s emphasis was thus placed on German realism from the second half of the nineteenth century. In addition, there was a library with nearly 10,000 volumes of German literature.

Slide 19: Mosse-Palais, Beispiele älterer Epochen, anderer Kulturen

The national character of his collection is the reason why the collection included no French artists at all. But Mosse did acquire individual works by contemporary Swedish, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Swiss artists. In this way, referential points to the development of art in neighboring countries were provided for the German art in Mosse’s collection in the sense of a pan-European international understanding.

The contemporary national focus of his collection was only altered, when Mosse increasingly listened to the advice of selected cultural journalists at Berliner Tageblatt and his son-in-law Hans Lachmann-Mosse. This explains how Dutch, Italian, and English masters from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century became part of the collection, as well as Benin bronzes and works of East Asian art. But the emphasis of the collection on German art from the nineteenth century was maintained, and all French art was still excluded.

Slide 20: Genreszenen, Landschaft, Portrait Bismarck

Beside the national and temporal emphases, the preferred motifs of the works reveal more about Rudolf Mosse the collector. The paintings, drawings, and watercolors are dominated by popular genre scenes, portraits of famous figures from the period, and landscapes from the region, as was generally typical for realism. The artists of this current thus refused the academic art world of norms and codes, opening art for individual values. Behind this was the claim, to create an art, that was generally valid, represented life reality, and hence not only accessible to the education elite. German realism thus went down in history as an essentially democratic art.

All the same, it should be noted, that realism, in contrast to the naturalism of that time, did not depict negative aspects, but excluded them in favor of a higher ideal. To that extent, realism was a romanticization of reality and thus collected by Mosse as a homage to the period, that allowed him his financial and social ascent.

Slide 21: Liste jüdischer Stifter aus LBI

As a donor and philanthropist, Rudolf Mosse found himself in the company of many likeminded individuals. If collecting, promoting, and exhibiting art was reserved for the princes and noble houses in German states until the end of the eighteenth century, the bourgeois patron emerged parallel to the social transformations in the nineteenth century and experienced a heyday with the rise of a financially powerful commercial bourgeoisie class. This was especially true in Berlin, where an extensive culture of art patronage emerged during the German Empire, which found expression in a large number of important collections and newly founded museums.

In the process, the promotion of art and cultures was not a purpose in and of itself, but was linked to the concrete goals of social reform, and embedded in an overarching liberal concept of the social order. The practice of bourgeois patronage questioned the social limits of court etiquette, and created an entirely new set of values, that served as the foundation for a contemporary society. To that extent, patronage and philanthropy linked the commercial bourgeoisie to the cultural bourgeoisie and thus strengthened the inner cohesion of the population against the politics of restoration under Emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941).

A relatively large portion of the Berlin’s art patrons consisted of individuals of Jewish origin. Despite their legal and administrative restrictions, they felt a commitment to charitable work through their own financial rise. In the spirit of the Jewish religious obligation of tzedakah, roughly translated as charity, the promotion of science, art, and culture was also complemented by social projects as well.

Slide 22: Waisenhaus

The Mosses had wide-ranging interests and were – the Mosses: Rudolf and Emilie had wide ranging interests – and were very active in charity work. They supported health and social welfare programs, and promoted mass education. They donated scholarships and funded various associations, insured the social security of their employees, and financed the erection of hospitals and orphanages.

On April 1, 1895, the Mossesche Erziehungsanstalt für Knaben und Mädchen was founded in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, a non-denominational orphanage free of charge, where children – predominantly from the impoverished middle classes – were cared for. Emilie Mosse was later awarded a medal by the Emperor for her work at the orphanage, and Rudolf Mosse, beside many other honors, was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of Heidelberg.

Slide 23: Vergleich mit James Simon und Eduard Arnhold

Accordingly, Mosse was a typical representative of Berlin art patronage and philanthropy, like the aforementioned cotton dealer James Simon. Another prominent figure in these circles was Eduard Arnhold, who made his fortune in coal. Like Mosse and Simon, he was also active in social charity work.

The personal artistic tastes of the three patrons, however, differed strikingly from one another. Mosse did not collect art for art’s sake. In purely financial terms, it would have been easy for him, to establish a collection of masterpieces of high value like that of Arnhold or that of Simon. At the time, he was considered Berlin’s third richest man. But Mosse’s taste was thoroughly down-to-earth, he was pleased only by various forms of expression of specifically bourgeois culture and the social-political content of the works themselves.

Rudolf Mosse also seemed to have consciously avoided imperial circles. When the emperor offered him an aristocratic title, he declined the offer. James Simon (1851-1932) and Eduard Arnhold (1849-1925), in contrast, were among the so-called “Emperor’s Jews.” Although both Berlin patrons belonged to the bourgeois liberal movement, they became close confidants of the Emperor, who in turn supported them.

Slide 24: Das Gastmahl der Familie Mosse

A quintessential aspect of Mosse’s motivations for his collections and his political viewpoints can be seen in the wall painting Das Gastmahl der Familie Mosse (The Mosse Family Banquet) from 1899. The publisher commissioned Anton von Werner with the mural for the dining hall at his residence on Leipziger Platz.

The painting shows the family members with friends seated at a richly set table against a landscape in the backdrop. Many of the figures in this scene are family members, Rudolf Mosse had six brothers and five sisters, most of whom lived in Berlin. But the focus of the painting is decidedly placed on the friends of Rudolf Mosse portrayed in the mural.

In the painting, the hosts sit modestly in the background, and on the sidelines; Rudolf Mosse is wearing a white ruff and is placed left of the center, standing behind the table, Emilie is placed in the foreground on the right, with Felicia in front of her.

Due to the picture’s compositional arrangement, the attention of the beholder is initially drawn to the upright male figure near the center with the raised chalice in his right hand. The person in question was the council of justice and writer Albert Träger (1830-1912), who at the time sat in the German Reichstag for the Deutsche Freisinnige Partei (DFP).

Additional figures in the painting were almost members of that political party, for example the important Berlin pathologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) (sitting behind the table next to Mosse), with whom Mosse was close friends, as well as the lawyer Albert Hänel (1833-1918) (left behind the table with a white beard and white ruff), and the journalist and philosopher Heinrich Rickert (1863-1936) (with a black hat left next to Hänel): they all held important positions in the Deutsche Freisinnige Partei and they had all published regularly in Mosse’s Berliner Tageblatt.  

Mosse, as host of this gathering, identifies with the political viewpoints of his guests. The Freisinnige Deutsche Partei had a liberal-left program: it promoted increasing the role of parliament in the constitutional monarchy, securing press freedom, and establishing equality among all religions, including Judaism.

The painting shows Mosse and his friends in a form of representation, otherwise reserved for the aristocracy, thus questioning the primacy of the reactionary power elite of the Empire.

In addition, the scene of the table gathering is placed in the Dutch seventeenth century, a heyday of art and scholarship, an era of religious freedom and bourgeois prosperity.

It seems, that Mosse had the mural painted, as a rejection of the Emperor. That was clearly understood at the time. Emperor Wilhelm II, who began rule in 1888, proved increasingly to be a stubborn enemy of liberalism in all its aspects. It must have been a provocation of a special kind, that Mosse had the mural painted by none other than Anton von Werner, the so-called “court painter” of Wilhelm II.

Slide 25: Skizze Gastmahl

The mural was destroyed during the war. It only exists as an oil sketch, that ended up, decades after the liquidation of the Mosse collection, via the art trade, in Berlin’s Jüdisches Museum and restituted to the Mosse heirs in 2016.

Slide 26: Raumpläne

After the turn of the century, Mosse continued to expand his collection. From the very beginning, he had intended to make the works accessible to the public, in order to communicate the message behind the collection, thus fulfilling its actual purpose. As of 1909 the Mosse Palais could be viewed after prior registration or in the framework of charity events for a fee between two and five marks. The proceeds in turn went to charitable causes. The collection enjoyed great popularity among expert circles and the general public alike, and was even referred to as the Mosse Gallery or the “Mosseum.”

With the start of the First World War, Rudolf Mosse had essentially completed his collecting. When he died in 1920, and four years later his wife Emilie, his adopted daughter Felicia inherited his entire estate. With her husband Hans Lachmann-Mosse, they kept Mosse Palais on Leipziger Platz with its art collection open to the interested public, and large receptions continued to be held here. Meanwhile, the Lachmann-Mosse couple remained with their three children Rudolf, Hilde, and George in their own villa on Maaßenstraße in Berlin-Tiergarten, and also resided at Mosse’s country estate Rittergut Schenkendorf, southeast of Berlin.

Slide 27: Familie Lachmann-Mosse

Just after 1933, the Nazis liquidated the corporate empire, that was already struggling financially due to the Great Depression, and drove the Lachmann-Mosse family into exile.

The Lachmann-Mosses left some of their possessions in storage with the old Berlin moving company Georg Silberstein & Co, which was soon then “Aryanized.” The holdings in their warehouse then became government property and were auctioned off. The possessions left in Berlin by the Mosses, their real estate, as well as Mosse’s art collection and their own – were declared “ownerless” and placed under a trusteeship, assigned with their liquidation.

Slide 28: Versteigerung

In May 1934, the collection objects and furnishings at the Mosse Palais were sold by the auction house Rudolph Lepke in Berlin. A week later, an additional auction of artworks and furnishings was held by the Berlin auction house Union at Felicia und Hans Lachmann-Mosse’s villa on Maaßenstraße. Most of the pieces, offered at the auctions, are considered lost today.

After the end of the Second World War, Felicia Lachmann-Mosse made claims in the context of the reparation and compensation laws for her lost estate. At the end of 1954, the Berlin court confirmed her loss of control over her private estate as of April 1933. But she was forced to withdraw her claims for compensation for the collections auctioned in 1934. Although the above-mentioned court decision acknowledged the seizure of her art collection, Felicia would have had to submit a so-called “Verbringungsnachweis,” which is maybe “proof of transfer,” for the purposes of compensation, which should have stated that the individual works had remained in Germany – in the area where the compensation laws applied – after the auction. Of course, she was not able to comply with this requirement.

The compensation case also did not account for the real estate owned by the Mosse family, that were located in the newly founded GDR and thus outside the jurisdiction of the new West German laws. These included not only Mosse Palais on Leipziger Platz but also Rittergut Schenkendorf.

Slide 29: MARP

Only after German reunification did the heirs of Felicia und Hans Lachmann-Mosse receive their real estate back in the early 1990s on the basis of the newly released Act on the Settlement of Open Property Issues under Recognition of Losses Related to Nazi Persecution. Two decades later, the Mosse Foundation began the search for art works from the former Rudolf Mosse collection and established the Mosse Art Restitution Project (MARP) together with the American and German legal representatives of the heirs.

 Slide 30: Herausforderungen MARI

This is the point of departure for the Berlin-based Mosse Art Research Initiative.

MARI is faced with several challenges: unlike provenance research undertaken at museums to examine their own collections, the art works of the Mosse collection are not present, but absent. This means we have no access to the rear sides of the artworks with the stickers, stamps, notes, and numberings, that are so important for provenance research. Before we can begin with the actual work, the collection must be reconstructed and all the associated artworks identified. Only then can the distribution paths of the confiscated objects, the exact circumstances of their confiscation, and their current location be investigated. Beside provenance research in the genuine sense of the term, MARI’s project is also one of reconstruction, authentication, and localization, which requires methodological clarification.

In addition, the wide variety and extent of the former Mosse collection increases the difficulty of the research project; beside the works of German artists from the nineteenth century and the East Asian art and Benin bronzes I have already mentioned, applied art, tapestries, antiquities, smaller excavation finds from Egypt, completed the collection, not to mention the library with its 10,000 volumes. To that extent, a wide-ranging knowledge of art and cultural history and experience in source-based sorting of material of original and reproducible works define the parameters of the project.

Besides all these aspects, the confiscation of the Mosse collection is an example of looted art in the early phase of the Nazi regime with its then uncoordinated actions. It was only with the enactment of the Nuremberg Race Laws in September 1935, that the systematic seizure of assets began, which was then documented in detail. In this respect, our research on the fate of the Mosse family can provide important insights into Aryanization and the seizure contexts of other cases between 1933 and 1935.

What do these challenges mean for the conception of the project structure and research strategy?

Slide 31: Kooperationspartner

The complexity of the range of topics required the inclusion of partners with expertise on very different levels. For this reason, MARI was planned as a “cooperative research project.” Beside close collaboration with the heirs of Rudolf Mosse, the team of researchers collaborates with colleagues from numerous other institutions, museums, and archives, that have already dealt with the Mosse case previously, have been confronted with claims, or possess archival materials and documentation, relevant to the Mosse case.

In this way, knowledge already generated and known resources can be bundled. MARI thus relies on an interdisciplinary, decentralized, academically coordinated network, rather than the one-scholar provenance research, that is primarily funded in Germany.

Slide 32: Gleichberechtigung

In MARI, information does not flow, as a kind of end-product, from one direction to another, as in assigning tasks, but freely and openly among the circle of experts, where it is subject to friction and filter co-efficients. Excuse me. The project is not hierarchically organized, none of the partners is in charge of the final interpretation of the findings.

Berlin’s Freie Universität, as an unbiased institution, unaffected by claims to restitution, is an ideal location for a project like MARI. In addition, research on Berlin’s art patronage has a long tradition here, beginning in the late 1990s with the research of art historian Thomas W. Gaethgens, later director of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and of historian Bernd Soesemann on the Berliner Tageblatt and its editor-in-chief Theodor Wolff.

Slide 33: Einbindung Studierender

Furthermore, the possibility of involving students in the project, is a great advantage in mastering the immense amount of research. In the framework of regularly offered seminars on the reconstruction of the Mosse Collection in the university’s art department, the students undertake the basic research, in which they systematically evaluate source materials before the MARI team takes on the in-depth research on the individual works in question.

Slide 34: MARI*intern

Restitution negotiations are explicitly not part of the project. MARI is a research initiative, not a restitution initiative. Suggestions are not actively transmitted, instead the facts are passively placed on a joint work platform, to which all cooperation partners have access. Only in this way can the project maintain the neutrality, that is essential for our concern and which promotes communication among the various parties involved.

As long as priority is placed on fact finding, all partners share the same interest orientation. Here, the project goes far beyond the frame of its actual research area. The joint work of claimants, current holders of the works in question, and independent scholars provides insights into various approaches and different standpoints, to in future better solve conflicts and to find just and fair solutions for all in a consensus manner, as the Washington Principles call for.

With its open policy of mutual understanding as a conceptual and at the same time praxis-driving strategy, MARI is able to avoid getting stuck in familiar patterns and in so doing attempts to prepare a founding of a joint, not only German, memorial culture.

What results have been achieved until now?

Slide 35: neue Quellenfunde / Kataloge

Until now, key findings have been made about the profile and the extent of the collection. While an overall inventory is still not known, four additional collection catalogues were found. And here I’ll show you now.

Oops. Oh the collection catalogues we found actually vanished from my slide. This is kind of funny. But I couldn’t help it now. Well, yes, so well the catalogues at the upper row are the the catalogues that were previously known to MARI from 1908, 1921, and 1932, and we found the catalogues from 1900, 1912, 1913, and 1915.

The catalogues, however, do not register all the works in the Mosse collection, only those works exhibited at Mosse Palais. A unique thing about these catalogues is, that the artists are not arranged in alphabetic order, instead, the works are ordered according to the place of their display. In this way, we can precisely reconstruct, how Mosse hung, rehung or exchanged the works. Furthermore, based on the hanging in the respective rooms, work identifications can be undertaken in comparison with written testimony from visitors to the Mosse Palais or photographs of the interior, which are, however, very seldom.

Slide 36: Werkidentifizierungen durch Raumabgleich und Fotos

Rudolf Mosse seems to have disliked photographs being taken of the interior of his home. While he often commissioned photographs of his family members and the publishing house, and here of the interiors and offices as well, excuse me, we know of no photographs from his lifetime, showing his collection in Mosse Palais. This taboo was only broken by Mosse’s heirs.

In 1932, Hans Lachmann-Mosse invited the participants of the World Economic Conference being held in Berlin, to a reception at Mosse Palais and for this reason allowed photographers. The Mosse Family Estate at New York’s Leo Baeck Institute includes photographs taken by the journalist couple Wally and Walter Israel. They show participants from the conference against the walls on which segments of paintings and tapestries or sculptures are visible. In combination with the catalogues, the rooms can be precisely mapped out with the works exhibited.

Slide 37: Liselotte Friedländer Landgrebe Beethoven

Already three years before, a similar event took place. In August 1929, in Berlin the World Advertising Convention was held. With over 5,000 guests from all over the world, it remained for years the largest international conference in Germany. To complement the official events and banquets, Hans Lachmann-Mosse invited select participants to an afternoon tea reception at Mosse Palais. For this purpose, he had a German / English catalogue printed that was illustrated with photographic reproductions of sixteen masterpieces from the Mosse Collection. In 1932, this catalogue was once again published for the World Economic Conference.

Until now, the MARI team has not been able to find historical photographs of the event in 1929, but we have been able to find out, that the guest list included the artist Liselotte Friedländer (1898-1973). For the fashion section of Berliner Tageblatt, she drew individual scenes of the tea reception, bearing great documentary value for our research. Several of her sketches and drawings, show the lion by August Gaul (1869-1921) in its place of display. Another drawing includes a bust, that can clearly be identified as a portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven by the sculptor Gustav Landgrebe (1837-1899).

Slide 38: Schenkendorf

As a whole, the catalogues include 206 works. Beside the presentation at the Palais on Leipziger Platz, Mosse also acquired works for his other residences, especially Rittergut Schenkendorf, where the family spent the summer months. Together with the art objects kept there, and the works not exhibited, and the prints, works of applied art, antiquities, and East Asian art, the collection was much larger than the catalogues suggest: in some sources, estimates range up to nearly 5,000 objects.

Likewise, we have gained important insights into the acquisition strategies of Rudolf Mosse. He rarely purchased works from the art trade instead of attending the annual exhibitions at the art academies and the Kunstvereine (art associations) in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, and Dusseldorf, for which he published the catalogues and thus had a prior knowledge of the works to be shown and offered. He also used his business contacts, his wide-ranging social network, and not least many personal contacts to artists for purchases. Rudolf and Emilie enjoyed studio visits and were happy to commission artists with special requests, not least for the sake of artists welfare.

Slide 39: Korrespondenz im LAB

For the reception of his networks, the correspondence of Rudolf Mosse has been available at Berlin’s Landesarchiv.

Slide 40: Korrespondenz im LAB, Album Amicorum

As an entirely new source, the MARI team recently found a file at Berlin’s Staatsbibliothek with more than 200 photograph cards, kept under the title “Album Amicorum,” up until now unidentified. The cardboard cards in a DIN A3 format were completed by artists, friends, and business partners of Rudolf Mosse and sent to him for his seventieth birthday in 1913. They each contain a photograph of the giver and a written dedication, sometimes also featuring drawings, prints, or watercolors.

With the help of provenance researchers at Staatsbibliothek Berlin, the path of this album could be traced as part of the liquidation of the Mosse library by the Nazis, as well as the later location and acquisition of the cards in 1953 by the Wissenschaftliche Bibliothek in East Berlin, whose holdings became part of the collection at today’s Staatsbibliothek.

Let us now turn to the results of the in-depth research on the individual works.

Slide 41: Gruppe 1

Over the past three years, the MARI team has been able to take up research on all works listed in the auction catalogues from 1935 and the collection catalogues, more than 1,200 works. On just 200 works, in collaboration with our cooperation partners and the students involved in the project, we have found documents that are highly informative. These works have been clearly identified and traces of their location found, reaching several decades after their confiscation.

Slide 42: Gruppe 2

For some of the works, we know their location until 2017. These later traces are always auctions, after which the works disappeared to private ownership, where they remain unattainable for us, even if the auction houses try to serve as an intermediaries between us and private owners.

Slide 43: Gruppe 3, Büßende Magdalena

In 22 cases, the MARI team has been able to locate the paintings, even if there are still gaps in their chain of provenance. For example, excuse me, the Repentant Magdalene, which since 1947, had been part of the art collection of the city of Düsseldorf. The painting is a partial copy of a painting from Berlin’s Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, destroyed during the Second World War. Rudolf Mosse purchased the Magdalene as a painting by [Peter Paul] Rubens (1577-1640) in 1912. Today it is attributed to the Rubens studio. Until 1936, it was held by auction house Lepke, then the trail disappears. Before 1943, it was acquired by Moritz Julius Binder (1877-1947), former director of Berlin’s Zeughaus and then an art dealer and advisor to Herman Göring (1893-1946). After Binder’s death, the painting came to Düsseldorf as a bequest.

The gap in provenance between 1936 and 1943 could mean that there was a second aggrieved party, as shown in the case of another work from the Mosse Collection. In these cases, the Mosse heirs are always open to negotiations to achieve a consensus solution, although the fixed guidelines stipulate that the first party alone should be restituted. In this spirit, and without concrete reference to another purchaser during the remaining gap, the culture committee of the city of Düsseldorf in 2018 decided unanimously to restitute the work to the heirs of Felicia Lachmann-Mosse.

Slide 44: Gruppe 4, Stauffer-Bern

For eleven works, all questions have been clearly, have been clarified and research concluded. This includes a self-portrait by the Berlin-based Swiss artist Karl Stauffer-Bern (1857-1891) in 1883. In general, it remains difficult to identify drawings and to research their whereabouts, since they are only rarely clearly documented. In this case as well, we had no photographic evidence available. The drawing could only be clearly identified on the basis of its inscription. A Swiss student discovered it at Kunstmuseum Winterthur, in her home country. The Berlin entrepreneur and collector Julius Freund (1869-1941) purchased the work in 1934 for 320 RM at the Lepke auction. Shortly thereafter, it was handed over to Kunstmuseum Winterthur in Switzerland for safe-keeping along with the rest of his collection. After the death of Julius Freund in 1941, who had only left for Great Britain in 1939, it became part of the museum’s collection. And this brings up the subject of Fluchtgut or “refugee’s goods” that is specific to Switzerland and currently being discussed in a heated debate in the context of confiscations related to Nazi persecution.

Slide 45: Gruppe 4, Stauffer-Bern, Zorn

Another painting from this group, the Peasant Girl at the Window by the Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860-1920), was acquired by Mosse in 1907 at the latest. At the 1934 Lepke auction it was purchased by the Berlin art dealer Karl Haberstock (1878-1956), who was himself one of the auction’s organizers.

Haberstock purchased it in commission for the auction house Bukowski in Stockholm. There it was acquired in 1936 by a Swede as a marriage gift for his wife, who never lent it or exhibited it publicly. Only by chance we found out, that the painting is still held by the family. In 2013, it was stolen, but then resurfaced briefly thereafter. Upon its return to the holders, the Stockholm tabloid Aftonbladet reported on the painting and illustrated the article with a photo of the painting’s hitherto unknown color scheme.

Via the director of Zorn Museum in Mora, Sweden, the MARI team tried establishing contact with the family, but there does not seem to be any interest in further clarification of the matter. Since the Washington Principles do not apply to private individuals, the lawyers of the Mosse heirs could do nothing further.

Slide 46: Restitutionen, Melchers

Beside the many cleared up cases, nine works have been restituted on the basis of MARI provenance research, or consensual solutions have been found between the current holder and the heirs, the rest is in negotiation. Considering the dimension of the number of restitutions in comparative projects, where the restitution, where one restitution a year takes place, MARI’s project concept has more than proven its effectiveness.

MARI has also set a few precedents. A case is currently before court in the U.S. regarding the painting Skater by the American artist Gari Melchers (1860-1932). The painting from the former Mosse Collection was discovered by one of my students in 2017 at Bartlett Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, New York. The museum had posted a photograph of the painting to announce its closing for the winter season on Facebook. The MARI team then engaged in subsequent in-depth research in close cooperation with the director of the museum Suzan Friedländer, who provided us with the documentation available at the museum. According to our research, the work made its way just several months after the Lepke auction to the Macbeth Gallery in New York in summer of 1934, where it was purchased by Bartlett Arkell and immediately donated to the Arkell Museum.

So, in this case, there is a clearly established chain of provenance without gaps. But the Bartlett Arkell Museum, due to its private status, is not bound to comply with the Washington Principles, and frequently the bylaws of private foundations have clauses, that make it difficult to restitute the works. For this reason, the U.S. Attorney General is invoking the In-Rem process, whereby stolen goods imported to the US, not just works looted from the Nazis, but all stolen goods, can be confiscated by him.

Slide 47: Neueste Entdeckungen, Hanns Fechner

Among the latest discoveries, well I think this is in a, yes it is, I am sorry, this is the wrong, maybe I can open another version. This is an older version of my presentation. I only realized that now. Maybe I can open up, Madison, I cannot change that right now. Well, let’s see how it works. Among the latest discoveries in a private collection is Hanns Fechner’s (1860-1931) portrait of the famous writer Theodor Fontane (1819-1898), a key work in Mosse’s collection. He purchased it as one of his very first works, since Theodor Fontane was one of the most important representatives of German realism in literature.

The MARI team found out, that the portrait was sold at the Lepke auction to the Nazi Reichsbank president Hjalmar Schacht (1877-1970) for 680 RM. By taking up contact with the heirs of Hjalmar Schacht, we learned that the painting was still in the possession of the family in southern Germany. The owner, herself a retired lawyer, refuses to acknowledge that the painting was confiscated as a result of racial persecution.

No, this is. Yes and these are also a discovery that we made in the last months, three really huge Gobelins by Belgian tapestry maker Bernardino van Asselt (active 1629–1673) and they are located in Israel. Two of them are located in the Tel Aviv Museum of Fine Arts, which will restitute the painting by Josef Israëls (1824-1911) From Darkness to Light in the next months. And the third Gobelin is held by a private museum in Jerusalem. And I already get in contact with the directors of the museums and we will see what we will find out about the provenances of these tapestries, or Gobelins. But it is true that especially the museums in Israel purchased a lot of artworks during the 1960s and 1970s when provenance research was not subject to their research and therefore, yes, held a lot of items that are very suspectable, and yeah, but okay, but I will continue with some other aspects.

Slide 48: Kontextforschung

Parallel to research on individual works and closely linked to these investigations, the team also carries out contextual research.

The most important finding to date regards Hans Lachmann-Mosse’s formerly presumed declaration of the company’s bankruptcy on September 13, 1932. As the MARI team was able to find out, there is no evidence of this, although it would have had to be mentioned in several places, since corporate bankruptcy already required public notice at the time.

Rather, the claim seems based on a numerical mistake in a publication from 1959, then accepted in the years to follow, further falsified to the point of saying that “Aryanization of the Mosse company in the usual sense” did not take place.

In fact, exactly a year later than claimed, on September 13, 1933, the Nazis opened settlement proceedings, which in case, which in case of an existing formal bankruptcy would not even have been possible. The Mosse-Verlag is only one of many companies, whose indebtedness, due to the inflation and the Great Depression, were used as leverage to push Jewish owners out of business. The patterns of explanation used for this, were continued in the postwar years in an undifferentiated way and continue until today, as the Mosse case shows.

In conclusion, I would like to briefly address the documentation of our research results. And here I sadly only have an old versions of our webpage. But you can have a look into the internet and see what we have been able to gather in our website and database.

Slide 49: MARI-Portal

On May 2, 2018, already a year after the start of the research, the MARI portal, a project website with a database, went online in German and in English. Here, I would like to point out once again the vastly beneficial cooperation with the heirs of Rudolf Mosse, who financed the IT part of the project.

Why is MARI-Portal an essential component of the project?

While provenance research in Germany is now supported all over the country by the federal and state governments, the lack of digital strategies is increasingly devastating. Online databases, until now primarily used in a unidimensional fashion, as a place of storing information, do not use the technical possibilities available to the fullest for networked and collaborative research.

In addition, the researched data is subject to an individual process of selection and evaluation. Researched data, that is considered wrong for the object in question or not relevant, falls by the wayside. The results thus represent the tip of the iceberg and can be understood as a fact-based interpretations depending on the researcher in question, which naturally have no objective and consistent quality.

Slide 50: MARI-Portal, Metadaten

With this awareness in mind, the MARI team at the FU developed an open and flexible research instrument. Here, we publish foundational information on Rudolf Mosse and his family, on the significance of his art collection, and its loss, as well as current information, contributions from cooperation partners, and central sources, for example the collection catalogues in PDF format.

The heart of the website is a database, in which all works from the Mosse Collection, that we have been able to research, are listed. Since our project is about the reconstruction of a destroyed collection, the so to say virtual object is not the focus, but rather the sources and the knowledge generated from them.

All relevant information is transcribed, fragmented, and transferred to structured data, making it computer-readable in order to prepare for a future in the semantic web. The interlinked content is available on various levels for different users. Results can be critically questioned using metadata and rapidly updated with the link system, without losing any information. This establishes the most important foundations to make the research achieved effective and accessible over the long term.

Slide 51: Webseite mit Hängeplänen

And as a special new feature, we now offer users a visualization of the hanging of the works at Mosse Palais. By clicking on the different floors and the individual rooms, you will get information about the works formerly shown here. And this slide is sadly missing, but as I said you can have a look into the internet at our webpage.

Slide 52: Löwe im Hofgarten 1945

I would like to conclude with a final illustration. It shows the Reclining Lion by August Gaul, that I mentioned briefly several times of my lecture. This photograph with the sculpture in the courtyard of Mosse Palais was taken in May 1945. To the left of the lion is the grave of a soldier, maybe you can hardly see it, the Palais around it has been destroyed down to its foundations, Hitler’s Neue Reichskanzlei, towards which the lion seems to be looking, is also in ruins. As if by way of a miracle, the lion – which unlike the family Lachmann-Mosse, who fled in 1933, and the works, auctioned in 1934, was the entire time a witness of events at Mosse Palais – was spared the fate of catastrophic destruction under the Nazi regime and thus stands today as an authentic, memorial witness to the period at Berlin’s James Simon Galerie.

Yes, thank you for your attention.



Leave a Reply