Around 100 pieces from the collection of Franz Oppenheimer, a Jewish businessman whose early 18th-century Meissen porcelain was seized by the Nazis, is headed to Sotheby’s in New York this September. Oppenheimer’s collection, valued at more than $2 million, includes items once owned by nobility such pieces from the holdings of Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony and the King of Poland, who established Europe’s first porcelain factory in 1710.
Oppenheimer’s collection was loaned for more than 60 years to the Rijksmuseum, the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam until 2019, when it was restituted by the Dutch government to the heirs of Oppenheimer and his wife Margarethe. In a statement, the Restitutions Committee concluded that Oppenheimer “lost possession of these objects involuntarily due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.”
Franz Oppenheimer was born in Hamburg and was a businessman in the the coal industry until the second World War. Oppenheimer and his wife fled their home in Vienna in 1936, on the day before Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. They managed to take a selection of their collection with them, but they were forced in 1938 to flee when the Nazis invaded Austria. The two traveled via Budapest and Stockholm to the U.S. The part of the collection set to appear at Sotheby’s was left behind during their flight from Vienna, and was taken to the Netherlands by Fritz Mannheimer, a German banker who settled in Amsterdam.
The list of restituted items provided by the Dutch Restitutions Committee in 2019 includes coffee pots, cups and saucers, milk jugs, tureens, cane handles, vases and perfume bottles. According to Sotheby’s, more details about the objects, some of the most important relics of early 18th century European porcelain, will be published before the auction.