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A gift for Dresden: A painting by Jan Baptist Weenix

Willem Jan Hoogsteder donates
rare Old Master to
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

The “Campagna Landscape” by Jan Baptist Weenix is already mentioned in one of the earliest inventories of the königliche Gemäldesammlung in Dresden. It was purchased for Friedrich August II. (1696-1763), Het was aangekocht voor Friedrich August II. (1696-1763), Elector of Saxony and King of Poland in 1742.

Willem Jan Hoogsteder came across the painting with a private collector and discovered that it was stolen from the museum in Dresden short after the war. The dune landscape had changed hands several times after the war. The owners, who had lawfully acquired it in good faith around 1995, were surprised to hear that the dune landscape once belonged to Dresden.

It was known to the Gemäldegalerie that a painting by Weenix was stolen from the collection, but no one ever made the connection with this dune landscape. Neither was the museum provenance known during the several auctions in London (1989) and Amsterdam (1995). Nor any sooner or later.
Not in 1984 when John Hoogsteder, the father of Willem Jan, bought the painting in New York at Christie’s (as a painting by Jan Wouwerman), nor in 2018, when the landscape was published in the elaborate monograph about Jan Weenix. The reason was that there was no image of the work in Dresden, therefore no one had any idea what the painting looked like.

Willem Jan Hoogsteder did make the connection. And after he had approached curator Uta Neidhardt from Dresden she could give him some surprising information. Right after the war the painting was confiscated by order of a Russian commander and was hung in the apartment of a Russian general. How it ended up in the United States from Dresden afterwards is a mystery.

Paintings from Dresden are emerging all over the world, according to Neidhardt. Very often these works have changed owners over the course of 75 years and the present owner is of good faith. Dresden is not capable of buying all these paintings back. Neither financially nor principally.

This work is one of the few dune landscapes by Jan Baptist Weenix and therefore is a rarity within his oeuvre. It carries remains of his signature GIO. BAT…. Which signifies Giovanni Battista, as Weenix called himself after his travels through Italy. That the dune landscape was already acquired for Dresden in 1742 is a compliment for the work itself, but also for the Dutch art of painting, which was already collected and publicly displayed in Germany at the time.

It was crystal clear to Willem Jan Hoogsteder: historically the dune landscape belongs in Dresden. But considering Dresden does not provide resources to acquire paintings and the present owners were not able to give the painting to the museum for free, this led to a status quo. To break that impasse, Hoogsteder made a decision. He decided to acquire the painting from the owners and donate it to Dresden.

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