The "Adam" and "Eve" pair has been a fixture in Pasadena for decades. But as Holocaust restitution research has escalated, a sketchy alternate version of their history has emerged. Unearthed documents indicate that the Cranachs were hidden in several locations in Kiev from 1919 to 1929, when they were sent to Leningrad in preparation for the Berlin auction.
No one disputes that the paintings were sold in the Stroganoff auction. But a case study in the American Assn. of Museums' Guide to Provenance Research concludes that the Cranachs were among works from various sources added to the sale to give them a "noble" provenance and disguise the fact that they were actually being sold by the government.
There is no evidence that the Cranachs belonged to the Stroganoffs, said Amy Walsh, curator of Dutch and Flemish paintings and head of provenance research at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and one of three authors of the AAM guide. But many questions remain about the ownership of the paintings.
Von Saher, the widow of the Goudstikkers' son, knew little of his family's history until 1997, when a journalist informed her that the Dutch government was reconsidering claims against Nazi loot. She filed a claim for 267 artworks and in February 2006 received 202 works that had been housed in Dutch museums. Government officials said that the Goudstikker affair had been handled properly in legal terms and that Von Saher got the paintings on moral grounds.