Recovered artworks heading to auction

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A year ago the settlement was hailed as one of the largest restitutions of art seized by the Nazis. Now about 170 old master paintings returned to the heirs of Jacques Goudstikker, a prominent Dutch dealer who fled Amsterdam in 1940, are to be offered at Christie’s in three sales, beginning in April in New York. The auction house says the paintings, many on view in Dutch museums and government buildings since the 1950s, could fetch from $22 million to $35 million...

The story of Jacques Goudstikker — and his heirs’ eight-year legal battle to wrest some of his paintings from the Dutch government — is a complex tale of scholarship and tenacity. Mr. Goudstikker, his wife and their son fled the Netherlands on May 14, 1940, as Amsterdam was invaded by the Nazis, leaving behind his gallery business and some 1,400 artworks.

A second-generation art dealer, Mr. Goudstikker was unable to take any of his prized paintings with him, but he did carry a small black notebook containing meticulous records of more than 1,000 works in his inventory. That notebook, which his wife retrieved after he died in a fall on the blacked-out freighter carrying them to safety, became crucial decades later when his widow and son began searching for the collection.

At one point many of the best works were owned by Hermann Göring. After the war, nearly 300 paintings from the Goudstikker collection were returned by the Allies to the Dutch and, despite the family’s protests, placed in the national collections. But in February 2006 the Dutch government agreed to return 202 paintings it had recovered after the war.

Hundreds of works are still missing.

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