The picture shave been recently restored to the heirs of Jewish businessman Jacob Lierens (1877-1949).
Lierens was a prominent art collector in pre-war Amsterdam but his paper company was ‘Aryanised’ following the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in May 1940 and the family’s home and property were later confiscated.
The two works at Christie’s were part of a forced sale in 1941 and were destined for the planned ‘Führermuseum’ in Linz, Austria, but were recovered at the end of the Second World War by the Allies’ Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section (or Monuments Men).
After being transferred to Dutch museums, where they were kept for the next 75 years, the Restitution Committee in the Netherlands concluded in 2019 that the works should be restored to the original owner’s heirs by the government.
One of the works in question is a lavish banquet stilllife by Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606-84) (above), a trademark dazzling display by the Utrecht-born artist which had been kept at the Centraal Museum in his hometown since 1948. A much exhibited and published painting, it is estimated at £3m-5m.
The other is a large work painted in collaboration by two artists: Dirck Hals (1591–1656) and Dirck van Delen (1604/5-71). A Merry Company in a palatial interior is estimated at £600,000-1m.
Head of Old Master pictures at Christie’s Henry Pettifer said: “The extraordinarily detailed still-life by Jan Davidsz De Heem is one of his most celebrated works, while the interior by Dirck Hals and Dirck van Delen is one of the most grandiose genre scenes from the period.”