Rijksmuseum buys back top collection of Meissen porcelain

Thanks to the support of the Rembrandt Association, the Mondriaan Fund, the National Purchase Fund of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the VriendenLoterij and a private donor through the Rijksmuseum Fund, the Rijksmuseum was able to purchase a large part of an important collection of Meissen porcelain at the auction today. including the two highlights, a clock and coffee and tea set. It is part of the Meissen collection of the Jewish-German couple Franz and Margarethe Oppenheimer, which has been in the Rijksmuseum since 1952 and is one of the most important Meissen collections in the world. The Oppenheimer collection was returned to the heirs in 2019.

Taco Dibbits, Chief Director of the Rijksmuseum: It is important that this contributes to the restoration of rights to the relatives of the Oppenheimer family. It is fantastic that we can acquire and permanently display such a large part of this top collection of Meissen porcelain. Moreover, it now enables us to pay attention in the museum to the personal story of this couple and the fortunes of their collection during and after the Second World War. We are extremely grateful to the patrons for making this possible. Meissen porcelain is one of the most important moments in the history of European applied art. The first European porcelain was made at the court in Dresden in 1708 under the patronage of the Saxon Elector Augustus the Strong. Until then, the secret of the production of the ‘white gold’ had only been known in Asia. The Oppenheimer’s collection contained almost exclusively examples of the very best painting and gilding. Much of what they collected was made for the palaces of Augustus the Strong. The Rijksmuseum’s Meissen collection is world famous for this reason and is regarded as the most important collection next to that of the Porzellansammlung in Dresden. It is thanks to this collection that nowhere in the Netherlands can European art be seen at such a high level. 

Provenance history collection Oppenheimer

Under pressure from persecution by the Nazi regime, the Jewish couple Oppenheimer fled from Berlin to Austria in 1936 and in 1938 – shortly before the Anschluss – finally to the United States. On their flight from Germany to Austria they took part of their collection with them. A large part of this was sold en bloc to Fritz Mannheimer between 1936 and 1939. This Jewish-German banker, who lives in Amsterdam, collected European crafts in an almost unparalleled way. His collection reflected the great European royal collections from the 16th to the 18th century. After Mannheimer’s death, his estate was declared bankrupt. The curator then forcibly sold the collection to the Nazis in order to pay the bank’s creditors. After the war, the collection was recuperated and placed under the management of the Dutch State. A large part of it has been part of the Rijksmuseum’s applied arts collection since 1952. 


In 2015, the heirs of Franz and Margarethe Oppenheimer submitted a claim to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for more than a hundred objects from the National Art Collection.  Of these, 92 objects are managed by the Rijksmuseum. After careful investigation, the Restitutions Committee advised the minister to return the objects to the heirs and the minister agreed to this in December 2019. Since 2012, the Rijksmuseum has also been conducting its own research into the provenance history of its collection related to the Second World War. The Oppenheimer collection has been designated by the museum on the Museum Acquisitions website from 1933 as a collection with an unclear provenance.     15th September 2021