After Maria Altmann, who managed to force the Austrian government to hand back six major works by Gustav Klimt stolen by the Nazis from the collection of her uncle Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, the heirs of Dutch dealer Jacques Gouddstikker learned with great relief on February 6, 2006 that the Dutch government would give them back 202 old master paintings seized from the latter after the German invasion of the Netherlands.
Jacques Goudstikker died accidentally in 1940 during his attempt to seek refuge in England while fleeing the occupied Nertherlands. During his career, he had amassed over 1 300 paintings, including major works by Giotto, Memling, Rembrandt, Hals, Steen, Van Goyen and El Greco.
Showing a deep interest for Flemish and Dutch 17th Century paintings, Jacques Goudstikker had little difficulty in becoming an art dealer since his grand-father and his great uncle had been in the business since 1845. He joined the family shop after the First World War and headed it after the death of his father in 1927.
Living in a lavish way, Goudstikker often took great pleasure in organising incredible feasts in his magnificent castle as well as major memorable exhibitions, such as a show on Italian art, which won him much praise. However, many people and rivals were envious of his success and criticised him much, especially as he was a Jew who behaved like a prince. Nevertheless, the flamboyant dealer showed great courage after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in refusing to deal with German customers and in deploying much of his efforts to help Jews who had fled the 3rd Reich persecutions.
His widow Desie sought refuge in the U.S and fought a long battle to retrieve the collection of her husband seized by the Nazis, which the Dutch government had recovered after the war after it had fallen partly into the hands of Marshall Goering and a German businessman named Aloïs Miedl. However, the Dutch government never accepted to accept her claim and after her death in 1996, her long-lasting battle was pursued by Marei et Charlene von Saher, the setp-daughter and grand-daughter of Jacques Goudstikker.
The Dutch government, whose role was questionable for dragging its feet for over 60 years in that case, deplored the great loss many museums, including the Rijksmuseum, would suffer as a result of such restitution and added that the State would keep 65 of the 267 works that were claimed because it had been impossible to determine whether the heirs of Jacques Goudstikker had a real right of property over these ones. The 202 works due to be returned to them represent a global value of over 60 millions dollars.