ARTnewsletter Archive

Disputed Berckheyde Painting Returned to Rijksmuseum

A 17th-century Dutch painting by Gerrit Berckheyde, valued at $4 million, has been returned to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, following an international dispute over its ownership.

NEW YORK—A 17th-century Dutch painting by Gerrit Berckheyde, valued at $4million, has been returned to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, following an international dispute over its ownership.

The Rijksmuseum purchased the painting, Amsterdam, The Heerengracht from the Vijzel­straat, also known as The Bend in the Heren­gracht, circa 1672, last September from Dutch collector and financier Louis Reijtenbagh. According to a lawsuit JP Morgan Chase filed against the collector, Reijtenbagh had pledged the painting—along with two-dozen other artworks by Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Edgar Degas, Alberto Giacometti, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso and Rembrandt—as collateral for a $50million loan from the bank in 2006. According to the bank’s complaint, as of March 30, principal of $23.5million is still outstanding on the loan, in addition to accrued interest.

According to a court filing by the bank, in January JP Morgan officials inspected an apartment in the Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue owned by Reijtenbagh’s sons Jacco and Edgar and compiled a list of collateralized artworks. (Jacco and Edgar were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.) The inspectors noted that three of the artworks the bank had listed as collateral for the loan—the Berckheyde, a Rembrandt ­self-portrait valued at $10million in a February appraisal by Sotheby’s, and Annette Assise, a work by Giacometti—were missing.

“The remaining collateral that was securing the loan was in danger of being taken out of this jurisdiction,” JP Morgan court documents alleged. The bank obtained an order of seizure in New York State Supreme Court on April 3, giving it the authority to seize the artwork from the apartment. On April 4 and 6, New York City sheriffs carried out the seizure order and removed the other works from the apartment.

Contacted at his apartment in the Trump Tower, Jacco Reijtenbagh confirmed to ARTnewsletter that the New York City Sherriff’s office had seized artworks from the apartment and that they are in the possession of the court. Reijtenbagh said the value of the artwork removed is approximately $28million, according to a March appraisal by Sotheby’s, which he noted was a “valuation for ­loan-collateral purposes” and thus lower than the actual market value of the works. Sotheby’s did not respond to a request for comment.

Reijtenbagh said that the list of items named as collateral for the debt was amended over the course of the loan. In an e-mail to ARTnewsletter, he wrote that JP Morgan “currently either have the right to (i) the 2007 pledge list including the Berckheyde, the Rembrandt and the Giacometti or the value of these works of art or (ii) to the 2008/2009 pledge which excludes the Berckheyde, the Rembrandt and the Giacometti but sees for a cash collateral account of $25million (however there was $27million this account). However the bank does not have the right to both.” He added that “JP Morgan has been overly agressive and the forum it has chosen is the media and not the court room.”

The Rijksmuseum had meanwhile loaned the Berckheyde painting to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., for its “Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age” show, which closed on May 3.

According to a May 6 press release from the Rijksmuseum, the Berckheyde painting is back in the Netherlands and will go on display at the museum May 12. “Last month media reports appeared that the American bank JPMorgan Chase claimed rights to the painting,” the statement read, in part. “As no legal proceedings were instituted, the painting was returned to the Netherlands as scheduled.”

A JP Morgan spokesman would not comment on the matter. Asked about the Berckheyde in late April—while it was still hanging at the National Gallery of Art exhibition—a spokesperson for the National Gallery told ARTnewsletter via e-mail that “the matter is in litigation.”

Reijtenbagh had also pledged several artworks as collateral for a loan from Dutch bank ABN Amro. In April, the bank sought to secure certain works in an Amsterdam court, including the Berckheyde, but has since renounced its claim to the Berckheyde according to spokesperson Jeroen van Maar­schalkerweerd. However, he confirmed that the bank is in possession of the Rembrandt ­self-portrait, and “has made additional agreements with Mr. Reijtenbagh on extra collateral that Reijtenbagh has provided to ABN AMRO.” Jacco Reijtenbagh said “there are no issues” with the ABN Amro loan.

In March, Credit Suisse also filed suit against Reijtenbagh, his sons, and several of their business entities, alleging “fraudulent conveyance arising out of Defendants’ transfer of assets worth approximately $340 million from a group of companies” owned by Louis Reijtenbagh, according to court documents. Both Jacco Reijten­bagh and Credit Suisse spokesperson Victoria Harmon confirmed to ARTnewsletter that that suit was settled early this month.

In a statement e-mailed to ARTnewsletter, bank representatives said that “Credit Suisse Strategic Partners and entities related to the Grand Prix Group [the Reijtenbaghs’ holding company] have reached an agreement to settle their dispute. All of the private equity assets whose transfer has been disputed will be returned, and those and other assets will be allocated between the parties. Other than for ongoing obligations, the previous relationship between Credit Suisse Strategic Partners and the Grand Prix Group will be terminated.”