Three Rubens Paintings to Stay in the U.K., Advisory Panel Rules

Three Contested Rubens Paintings Should Stay in the United Kingdom, the Country's Spoliation Advisory Panel Rules.

Mar 25, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Three Rubens Paintings
Bounty of James I triumphing over Avarice (1632-33) (detail). Photo: © The Courtauld.


Three contested Rubens paintings should stay in the United Kingdom, the country’s Spoliation Advisory Panel rules. The panel also ruled that the paintings deserve to stay in the possession of the Courtauld Institute, London, for a public display. In a report released earlier this week, it detailed its investigation into three distinct ownership claims made on the disputed works.


What Three Rubens Paintings Are in Question?

Three Rubens Paintings
Bounty of James I triumphing over Avarice (1632-33). Photo: © The Courtauld.


The three paintings in question are St Gregory the Great with Ss Maurus and Papianus and St. Domitilla with Ss Nereus and Achilleus (1606-07), The Conversion of St. Paul (c.1610-12), and The Bounty of James I Triumphing Over Avarice, for the ceiling in the Banqueting House, Whitehall (c. 1632). They originally appeared in the possession of the German financier, Franz Wilhelm Koenigs.


However, in the 1930s, he began leveraging his enormous art collection to obtain loans from the Dutch bank N.V. Bankierskantoor Lisser & Rosenkranz. The bank declared voluntary dissolution in 1940, soon before the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. Rather than repay his obligations, Koenigs transferred rights of the Rubens and other works to the bank.


portrait paracelsus, Three Rubens Paintings
Portrait of Paracelsus by Rubens (after Quentin Matsys), ca. 1625. Source: Wikimedia.


The paintings went for sale to art historian Count Antoine Seilern, who transported them to England and donated them to the Courtauld. Decades later, multiple successors of the bank’s stockholders tried to restore possession of the three expensive treasures. One of the claimants is Koenigs’s granddaughter Christine Koenigs.

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Honoring Koenigs’ Wishes

peter rubens andromeda painting
Perseus Freeing Andromeda, Peter Paul Rubens, 1620-22. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Christine Koenigs previously attempted to retrieve the artwork from the same U.K. panel in 2007. Also, from the Dutch government’s comparable advisory panel in 2003, 2013, and 2022. She is now filing an action on behalf of a group of seven heirs based on Koenig’s 2.4 percent ownership of the bank. Another claimant is Mr. Gal Flörsheim, who is making two claims.


One as the only heir to one of the bank’s largest stockholders, Salomon Jakob Flörsheim, and the other in collaboration with Mr. Dolev. Both have been assigned as co-liquidators for the bank. The three assertions are sufficiently alike to qualify together. In its defence for the Rubens works staying in the United Kingdom, the panel stated that Koenigs chose to utilise the paintings to gain a loan. As a result of the bank’s liquidation, he lost his right to them.


cronus greek mythology
Cronus devouring one of his sons, by Peter Paul Rubens, 17th-century, via Museo Del Prado.


As a result of the bank’s liquidation, he lost his right to them. This was alleged for having occurred “voluntarily” for economic reasons unrelated to the Nazi invasion. Following this, Seilern paid a reasonable amount for them. The advisors decided that the paintings being currently on public display at the Courtauld was suitably “in line with the wishes of Franz Koenigs”.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.