Provenance researchers pay close attention to “red-flag” names—Nazi agents and the art dealers who collaborated with them—to determine whether an artwork passed through suspect hands between 1933 and 1945.
While such lists are helpful, they must be approached with caution. Dealers on these lists often engaged in hundreds or thousands of lawful sales during their careers. Thus the presence of a “red-flag” name in a provenance is not always proof of an illicit transaction.
Kitchen Still Life was owned by one “red-flag” dealer during the Nazi era. Raphael Gérard acquired this painting before or during 1934, six years before the German invasion of France. The painting remained in his possession until at least 1937. Although Raphael Gérard was indicted in postwar France for selling stolen art to Nazi agents, nothing indicates this painting was subject to spoliation in the years before the Occupation.
E. & A. Silberman Galleries in New York acquired Kitchen Still Life by 1942. A Jewish-owned business, Silberman’s Vienna gallery was Aryanzied after the 1938 annexation of Austria by Germany and its owners fled to the United States. The New York gallery was later implicated in sales of looted paintings to US museums. However, Silberman Galleries also handled hundreds of legitimate sales.
It is not clear where, when, or under what circumstances Silberman Galleries acquired Kitchen Still Life. Provenance research for this painting is ongoing.
Author: Nancy Karrels, graduate student in Art History and curator of Provenance: A Forensic History of Art, 2017