NEWS: Lutma salt cellars returned to heirs

Two silver sals cellars, Johannes Lutma (1584-1669) dated 1643 collectie of the Amsterdam Museum.
Two silver sals cellars, Johannes Lutma (1584-1669) dated 1643 collectie of the Amsterdam Museum.

On 15 december 2022 the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War – also known as the Restitutions Committee – gave its advice on the restitution application concerning four silver salt cellars made by Johannes Lutma (1584–1669). Two of the salt cellars are in the care of the Amsterdam Museum and can be viewed there, while the other two are in the care of the Rijksmuseum. The Restitutions Committee recommends returning the salt cellars to the heirs of the German Jewish Emma Budge (1852–1937).

The Restitutions Committee concludes that it is highly plausible that the works of art were the property of Emma Budge and that it is sufficiently plausible that her heirs involuntarily lost possession after her death. The Amsterdam Museum and the City of Amsterdam will return the salt barrels to the heirs. The Rijksmuseum will also restitute two salt barrels. For the advise of the Restitutions Committee click here.

Amsterdam Museum

Between 2009 and 2013 the Amsterdam Museum conducted a provenance investigation into the two Lutma salt cellars in its collection. This research revealed the salt cellars were from the collection of Emma Budge, a Jewish woman from Hamburg. After her death in 1937, her art collection was auctioned off in Berlin. At that time, numerous anti-Jewish measures were being implemented in Germany. Due to the context under which the 1937 auction and its settlement took place during the Nazi regime, the research from the Amsterdam Museum concluded that the salt cellars can be designated as involuntary loss of property. Together with the heirs of Emma Budge, the municipality Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Museum therefore reported the objects to the Restitutions Committee to receive a binding advice on the matter. This binding advice supports the results of the investigation by the Amsterdam Museum and recommends returning the salt cellars to Emma Budge’s heirs.

“This restitution does justice to history,” says Judikje Kiers, director of the Amsterdam Museum. “The investigation into the history of these objects and their provenance was meticulously carried out. It is a good thing that we can now take this step regarding returning the sals cellars to their rightfull owner, the heirs of Mrs Emma Budge. ''

The Lutma salt cellars

The two salt cellars found in the city of Amsterdam’s collection, purchased by the municipality of Amsterdam in 1960 and cared for by the Amsterdam Museum, date from 1643. The two silver items are partially gilded and were made by Johannes Lutma (1584–1669). Lutma was one of the most talented silversmiths of 17th-century Amsterdam, and is even referred to as the “Rembrandt of the applied arts.” The salt cellars are produced in what is known as the lobate style, where organic and softly flowing shapes are crafted into a spectacular decorative piece. Lutma mastered this style like none other.

The salt cellars have always been displayed in the museum’s permanent exhibition. Salt was very costly in the 17th century and held an esteemed place at the table. Salt cellars were therefore viewed as a symbol of status and wealth in 17th-century society. In combination with other objects from that period, they offer insight into the wealth of certain social circles. At this moment, Lutma’s salt cellars are on display in Panorama Amsterdam: A Living History of the City, the collection presentation at the Amsterdam Museum on the Amstel. They are exhibited as part of the broader topic of the Second World War, an example of artworks in the city of Amsterdam’s collection which have a controversial provenance.

Learn more about the silver salt cellars from 1643 by Johannes Lutma (1584–1669).

Learn more about Emma Budge.