Restitution of Fritz Huf’s Sculpture “Ruhende Frau“ by the Nationalgalerie

Neue Nationalgalerie

On 5 April 2022, the Nationalgalerie ‒ Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK) will transfer possession of Swiss sculptor Fritz Huf’s (1888‒1970) bronze sculpture Ruhende Frau to the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG; Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg).

The work was restituted to the heir of Hans (Jean) Fürstenberg, its previous owner, whose persecution under the National Socialists led to its loss from his collection. In preparation for the recently published collection catalogue Die Sammlung der Nationalgalerie 1905 bis 1945, the staff of the Zentralarchiv (Central Archives) ‒ Staatliche Museen zu Berlin intensively researched the provenance of the sculpture Ruhende Frau (Resting Woman). The heir to the sculpture – the French Fondation Fürstenberg-Beaumesnil – has sold the work to the SPSG. Long-term, Ruhende Frau is intended to be exhibited in the park of Schönhausen House in Berlin-Pankow.

Provenance of the Sculpture Ruhende Frau

Before the Second World War, the sculpture Ruhende Frau (1923) belonged to the collection of Hans Fürstenberg, the artist’s brother-in-law. Huf replicated the head of his wife Natalie Luise Aniela (called Natascha), Fürstenberg’s sister, for the bronze sculpture’s features. An illustrated reportage in the journal Der Cicerone shows the artwork in 1924 in the garden of Fürstenberg’s villa in Berlin’s Tiergarten quarter, where it remained at least until 1932, as documented by other photographs. The sculpture disappeared after Fürstenberg fled and was forced to sell his house. It would not resurface until 1948, when it was found in the Czech Military Mission’s scrap depot (located along Berlin’s Osthafen industrial waterfront), and presented to the Nationalgalerie by the Magistrate of Berlin.

Due to the gap in the provenance between 1932 and 1948, the SPK contacted the heir’s representatives. Together they were able to determine that Hans Fürstenberg most likely lost the sculpture identified in the Neue Nationalgalerie collection during the period when the National Socialists forced him to sell his villa in 1938. For this reason, the SPK decided to restitute the work to the Fondation Fürstenberg-Beaumesnil based on the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.

From 1951 to 1990, the figure, on loan from the Nationalgalerie, was located in the park at Schönhausen House in Pankow. Following the palace’s use as the seat of the East German president and later as accommodations for diplomatic guests of the GDR government, the building and grounds have belonged to the SPSG since 2005. A major section of the palace gardens has now been recreated in keeping with Reinhold Lingner’s designs for the Presidial Garden from the 1950s.

Hans (Jean) Fürstenberg

Hans Fürstenberg was born in 1890 in Berlin, son of the banker Carl Fürstenberg. The National Socialists persecuted him under the Nuremberg Race Laws that went into effect in 1935. As a Jew, he was forced to relinquish his business ownership of the Berliner Handels-Gesellschaft bank by 31 December 1936. Afterwards, he fled to France. In September 1938 Fürstenberg sold his villa in Admiral-von-Schröder-Straße, now Köbisstraße, to the Third Reich. He was able to take his valuable library with him into exile and thus prevent it from immediately falling into the hands of the National Socialists. In France, Hans Fürstenberg and his wife Eugénie lived in Paris and at the Château de Beaumesnil in Normandy. Germany’s occupation of France in 1940 forced them to flee again. The château and Paris apartment were confiscated in 1940 by the Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce and the books in Fürstenberg’s library were carted away. After the war, the Fürstenbergs returned to Beaumesnil. Hans and Eugenie both died in 1982, only a few months apart. They had no children. In 1964 the couple founded the Fondation Fürstenberg-Beaumesnil, which now administers the Château de Beaumesnil and the accompanying park, making it accessible to the public.