Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck, the 96-year-old daughter of its original Dutch owner - the late Dr JH Smidt van Gelder - received the painting in a ceremony at The Mansion House in London today.
The painting, The Oyster Meal by Jacob Ochtervelt (1634-82), was one of a number of Old Master paintings that had been in the Harold Samuel Collection at The Mansion House.
Businessman and property developer Samuel bought the painting in 1971 and when he died it was part of a gift of 84 artworks given to the City of London Corporation in 1987. The bequest came with the condition that they be kept at The Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, permanently.
However, on hearing about a claim from the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe, who acted on behalf of the van Gelder family, the daughters of the late Lord Samuel agreed that The Oyster Meal should be returned to the family.
Battle of Arnhem
The painting was stolen from Bischoff van Heemskerck’s father’s collection following the Battle of Arnhem in the Dutch town.
Following a failed attempt by the Allied troops to liberate the area, the German army forcibly evicted residents from their homes and their property was looted and sent to Germany. The Oyster Meal was one of 14 paintings stored by van Gelder in a bank vault in Arnhem. Despite extensive searches after the war, The Oyster Meal and five other paintings were never found.
Following extensive research in recent years the painting was eventually traced after it had reappeared on the art market in Switzerland in 1965.
Bischoff van Heemskerck said: "The recovery of my father’s painting after so many years was truly a collective effort. We are very grateful to the Commission for Looted Art in Europe for the countless hours spent establishing the history of this painting, and to the City of London Corporation for honouring our claim in such a professional manner, and for taking such a constructive and positive approach.”
Lord Mayor Andrew Parmley said: “When I heard about the restitution claim, I felt it entirely right that The Oyster Meal be reunited as soon as possible with the family who owned it. My colleagues and I at the City of London Corporation were unanimous in our decision to seek approval from Lord Samuel’s daughters to authorise the painting’s restitution.”