Provenance of the Mainz book collection from the Kunsthistorische Forschungsstätte Paris (1942–1944)
The project basis is a book collection comprising 3,073 specialist publications and auction catalogs in German and French which was transferred to Mainz when Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz was re-established in 1946. It is a sub-set of stock from the library of the former Kunsthistorische Forschungsstätte Paris (KHF). The KHF was a research institution for art historians which existed from 1942 to 1944 and was under the control of the Deutsches Institut Paris.
It had already been established in a preliminary project that the auction catalogs came to the KHF mostly through a voluntary donation, while the German-language books were “obtained” in Germany by Prof. Alfred Stange, full professor in the Department of Art History at Bonn University. There is a suspicion that these are cultural goods seized as a result of Nazi persecution, and this needed to be addressed. The publications in the French department of the KHF were purchased by Dr. Hermann Bunjes between 1942 and 1944 in Paris. Although various receipts suggest that these book purchases were ostensibly legal, the precise circumstances should be examined in greater detail, as Bunjes’ work for the Art Protection Office and his activities in the art market are well known.
The aim of the project was therefore to systematically examine the provenances of the individual titles and enter information about problematic provenances in the Lost Art Database. For identification purposes, the special book collection will also get its own code in Mainz University Library’s online catalog to enable users to carry out specific title searches.
In addition, the function of the library at the KHF should be explained in the context of organized, persecution-related art theft in Paris during the German occupation. For instance, whether the extensive collection of auction catalogs results from the efforts of Hermann Bunjes to control the auctions in Paris between 1942 and 1944 and whether, in the process, older catalogs were used to check changes in prices. Efforts to reopen the Hôtel Drouot auction house and the George Petit gallery are also directly related to the documented exchange between Hermann Bunjes and various cultural policy stakeholders in the Rhineland. The project on the Mainz book collection should thus also provide information about the network activities and acquisition policy of Rhineland museums in the years 1942 to 1944 in Paris.
(c) Universitätsbibliothek der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität
Research report and other sources
For access to the research reports, a so-called “extended access” is required. This can be requested from the German Lost Art Foundation and requires a "legitimate interest". For more information, please refer to the detailed instructions. If you already have an user account with extended access, please log in.