Details of Resolution:
In June 2011, the Museum of Fine Arts reached a financial settlement with the heirs and the estate of Walter Westfeld for Eglon van der Neer’s Portrait of a Man and Woman in an Interior, allowing the painting to remain at the museum.
Walter Westfeld (b. 1889 – d. after 1942) operated an art gallery in Wuppertal, Germany, during the Nazi period. A 1935 decree from the Reichs Chamber of Fine Arts forbade him from working as a dealer because he was Jewish, and he was ordered to close the gallery in May of 1936. That very month, an exhibition of works of art owned by Westfeld was held at the Galerie Kleucker in the nearby city of Düsseldorf, including a “Company Scene” by Eglon van der Neer. This was almost certainly the MFA painting.
The paper trail ends there, and begins again five years later. The MFA purchased the painting from E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York, in December, 1941. Silberman probably acquired the painting in the spring of that year, but it has not been ascertained from whom.
It is not known for certain how the MFA’s Portrait of a Man and Woman in an Interior left Westfeld’s possession and made its way to the United States. Without further documentation, its exact provenance may never be known. However, it is difficult to imagine a scenario by which he sold the painting voluntarily in Nazi Germany, receiving proceeds over which he had free disposal.
In November, 1938, Walter Westfeld was arrested for violating Germany’s foreign exchange laws. He spent the remaining years of his life in captivity and on January 23, 1943, was sent to his death at Auschwitz.