The painting by Caspar Netscher hanging in Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck’s home. Photograph: Family of Mrs Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck
CAIRO – 15 June 2022: At the age of 101, a Dutch woman recovered a painting that had been looted by the Nazis from her father during World War II, but she decided to sell it through Sotheby's in London so that her family could benefit from its proceeds.
Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck, who joined the Dutch resistance, has not lost hope of finding the 1683 painting of Steven Wolters by Caspar Netscher, a Dutch master whose paintings are in the National Gallery in London.
The painting hung in her childhood home in Arnhem and was much loved by her father, Joan Hendrik Smidt van Gelder. He was a doctor and director of the city's Children's Hospital, and went into hiding after refusing Nazi orders.
After Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, the father stored the painting at the Bank of Amsterdam in Arnhem, believing it would be safe there, but the Nazis stormed the bank and seized the vaults, amid widespread looting, destruction and devastation.
In 1944, the Allied forces launched Operation Market Garden as the British first Mobile Division attempted to capture the strategically important road bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem.
In the chaos of war the painting disappeared, but work by the London-based Committee for Stolen Arts in Europe proves the painting appeared at a Dusseldorf gallery in the mid-1950s, before being auctioned off in Amsterdam in 1969. In 1971, the painting was acquired by a private collector in Germany, who returned it in 2021.
Charlotte recalled the moment she saw the painting again, telling the Guardian: "I was amazed."
After keeping the painting for six months, Charlotte sent the painting to Sotheby's in London, who will auction it on July 6 with estimates that it will fetch between £30,000 and £50,000.