Landscape with Burning City
Herri Met De Bles (Flemish, about 1480–after 1550)
13.0 x 25.7 cm (5 1/8 x 10 1/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on panel
Not On View
By 1929, Franz W. Koenigs (b. 1881 - d. 1941), Haarlem, the Netherlands [see note 1]; April 2, 1940, ownership transferred from Koenigs to Lisser and Rosenkranz Bank in partial payment for a loan [see note 2]; April 19, 1940, consigned by Lisser and Rosenkranz to Jacques Goudstikker Gallery [see note 3]; June, 1940, sold by Lisser and Rosenkranz, through Goudstikker and with the intervention of Franz Koenigs, to Alois Miedl [see note 4]; June, 1940, sold by Miedl to Hermann Goering, Carinhall [see note 5]. 1946, Julian Acampora, New York [see note 6]; 1946, sold by Acampora to Aram Gallery, New York; 1946, sold by Aram to the MFA for $3,200. (Accession Date: November 14, 1946)
 Koenigs was a Protestant German businessman living in the Netherlands. Along with other drawings and paintings from his art collection, this landscape was on loan to the Museum Boymans, Rotterdam, from 1935 to 1940. It was included in the exhibition catalogues "Ausstellung alter Malerei aus Privatbesitz" (Kunstverein, Düsseldorf, June 1 - July 15, 1929), cat. no. 5 and "Verzameling Koenigs Schilderijen" (Museum Boymans, Rotterdam, 1935), cat. no. 12.
 In 1931, Koenigs took out a loan from Lisser and Rosenkranz bank, using his art collection as collateral. In 1935 the terms of this loan were formalized: Koenigs gave the bank the right to sell the collection, if necessary, when the loan became due in June 1940, or if the bank was liquidated before this five-year term was up. On April 2, 1940, Lisser and Rosenkranz did go into liquidation and Koenig's debt became due. On this date the bank declared itself the sole owner of the art collection.
 By the end of 1939 it had already become clear that Koenigs would not be able to pay off his loan to Lisser and Rosenkranz before the due date of June, 1940, without selling his art collection. Jacques Goudstikker gallery had been employed on behalf of Koenigs and Lisser and Rosenkranz to help sell the collection. On April 19, Goudstikker collected thirty-five paintings from the Koenigs collection on behalf of Lisser and Rosenkranz, in order to sell them.
 On May 15, 1940, Hitler's second-in command, Hermann Goering, visited Goudstikker accompanied by his chief purchasing agent, Andreas Hofer, and his friend Alois Miedl. In June, Miedl purchased thirty-one paintings from the Koenigs collection from Goudstikker. Evidence suggests that Franz Koenigs himself was active in the sale of these paintings and understood the conditions of the sale. According to interviews with Jacques Goudstikker's widow and Miedl, Koenigs approved of Miedl's intention to offer one of the paintings as a gift to Goering and may have offered his assistance with this.
 Miedl sold nineteen paintings, including the Landscape with Burning City, to Hermann Goering. They were delivered to his residence at Carinhall, Germany, on June 10, 1940. In early 1945, Goering attempted to safeguard his collection by shipping the objects from Carinhall to Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. The train was intercepted by the Allies. Much of the collection was recovered, but numerous articles were also looted, possibly by Allied troops and by the local population. Some objects were found in private homes and on the black market. They were returned to the Netherlands and became the property of the Dutch government. This painting, however, was not recovered. For further on the shipments from Carinhall, see Nancy H. Yeide, Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection (Dallas: Laurel Publishing, 2009), p. 16, and for information on the MFA painting, p. 292, cat. no. A452.
 In 1946 the MFA purchased the painting from Aram Gallery, in New York. Siegfried F. Aram (letter to the MFA, September 20, 1948) attested that he had purchased it from Julian Acampora, a New York restorer, and that it had come from the collection of the Count d'Urbania. After inquiring further about its history, Aram was told that it been with Devany's auction galleries, New York, and that it had come from a collection in Chicago. This account is inconsistent and was almost certainly fabricated.
By 1948 the MFA was aware that the painting had come from Carinhall and was being sought by the Dutch government. The museum entered discussions with the authorities in the Netherlands at this time. In a letter from A. P. A Vorenkamp, Director of Boymans Museum, to George Edgell, Director of the MFA (November 25, 1948), he confirmed that he had "turned the 'Herri met de Bles affair' over" to the General Commission of Recuperation, Amsterdam. However, the MFA was not contacted by the Commission. In 1998, the MFA again contacted the Netherlands, corresponding with the Inspectorate of Cultural Heritage. It was confirmed that the painting was missing from the Netherlands and it could not be determined why it had not been returned.
An heir of Franz Koenigs has also claimed to have legal title to the objects sold through Goudstikker, on the grounds that Koenigs was forced to sell his possessions at a cost below fair market value. On November 3, 2003, the Dutch Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications rejected these claims. The resolution, "Advice concerning the application for restitution of the Koenigs collection," is accessible online at: https://www.restitutiecommissie.nl/en/summary_rc_16.html
The MFA awaits communication from the interested parties regarding their attempts to reach a neutral resolution of the ownership of the painting.
Seth K. Sweetser Fund