Provenance research on the art collection of Rudolf Mosse is now online

Alte Nationalgalerie

The results of provenance research to trace the whereabouts of artworks once owned by the publisher Rudolf Mosse are now accessible on an online platform.  Thanks to generous support, three restituted works have been re-purchased for the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. A new media station in the Alte Nationalgalerie provides information about the history of the Mosse collection and the restitution.

Launched a year ago, the Mosse Art Research Initiative (MARI) is unique in being the first public-private provenance research partnership. The goal of MARI is to reconstruct the large art collection of the Jewish publisher Rudolf Mosse (1843–1920) and to trace the present whereabouts of the artworks, which were seized by the Nazis. The results are being recorded in a research database, the MARI-Online-Portal. The online portal was presented yesterday at a press meeting in the Alte Nationalgalerie.

The collection

In 1912, the contemporary art critic and journalist, Max Osborn, described Rudolf Mosse’s art collection as “one of Germany’s richest and most magnificent collections”. Consisting of several thousand works, it was mostly assembled during the 1880s and 90s. After Mosse’s death, it was inherited by his adoptive daughter, Felicia Lachmann-Mosse. In 1933 all the artworks belonging to the Lachmann-Mosse family were seized by the National-Socialist state and their ownership transferred to a foundation. Large numbers of works were disposed of through the Rudolph Lepke and Union auction houses. By various routes, nine of them came into the possession of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin between 1942 and 1994.

Restitution and re-purchase

In 2015 and 2016 these nine works were restored to the heirs of Mosse’s sole beneficiary, Felicia Lachmann-Mosse. Since then, three of them have been successfully re-acquired:

  • A Roman child’s sarcophagus was re-acquired for the Antikensammlung as early as 2016 and is on display in the Neues Museum.
  • A Recumbent Lion by August Gaul was also acquired in 2016, with a federal grant from the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, and will go on display in the James-Simon-Galerie when it opens.
  • The sculpture Susanna by Reinhold Begas was acquired in 2017 with support from the Kulturstiftung der Länder and is now part of the permanent exhibition in the Alte Nationalgalerie. As of today, a media station next to the sculpture will inform visitors to the gallery about the artist and his work, as well as about the Rudolf Mosse Collection and the restitutions.

The partners

The Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz and other institutions are collaborating in the MARI project along with the Mosse-family community of heirs under German law and the Freie Universität Berlin; the project is being jointly funded by the Mosse family heirs and the Deutsche Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (German Lost Art Foundation). In the project partnership, the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz is represented by the Zentralarchiv (Central Archive) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, which coordinates the museums’ provenance research. The Zentralarchiv, with its extensive holdings of official files, bequests and other documentary material, is also an indispensable source of information about the Berlin art trade and the connections between museums and private collectors.

Roger Strauch, the director of the Mosse Art Restitution Project and president of the Mosse Foundation, said of the project: “This is an exemplary collaboration which demonstrates the fundamentally sympathetic attitude of the German government and the country’s cultural institutions. We would also like to thank the many talented provenance researchers who are working with great persistence to find the missing artworks of the Mosse collection.”