The State Museum acquired four silver and gilded salt shakers by the 17th century Amsterdam silversmith Johannes Lutma after they were returned to the heirs of the German Jewish collector Emma Budge.
These are two matched pairs, one pair made in 1639, the other in 1643. The drawing depicts a cupid sitting on a dolphin with the tail of a marine mammal draped over his shoulders. Cupid holds in his hand a bowl that looks like a shell. Very few examples of Lutma’s work survive, and these salt shakers are masterpieces demonstrating his mastery of classical sculptural form and the auricular or lobed style that dominated Northern European decorative art in the first half of the 17th century. Other works by Lutma in the Rijksmuseum collection are medallions and bas-reliefs.
Johannes Lutma was born in 1587 and studied as a teenager with the baroque silversmith Paul van Vianen before opening his own shop in Amsterdam in 1621. gold workshops. It was second only to Paris in terms of the size of the community of silver and goldsmiths. London had less than half that number. Poets and writers sang of him as an artist and craftsman. Rembrandt engraved his portrait in 1656.
Despite his fame during his lifetime, few of Lutma’s silverware have survived the centuries. Until World War II, the salt shakers were owned by Emma and Henry Badjam, a wealthy couple from Hamburg who amassed a large art collection. Emma outlived Henry by nearly a decade, and by the time of her death in 1937, the Nazis were forcing Jews to sell their property, with all profits going to the party and not to heirs. Four salt shakers were bought on a forced sale by a German dealer. They reappeared at auction in 1960, where they were bought by the city of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Two were exhibited at the Rijksmuseum, the other two at the Amsterdam Museum.
In 2013, researchers at the Amsterdam Museum discovered that their salt shakers have a very dubious owner history. This also prompted an investigation by the Rijksmuseum and its researchers also noted the provenance as suspicious. In 2014, restitution committees from several countries discovered that the auction of Emma Budge’s estate was a forced sale, and many of the art pieces were returned to Budge’s heirs by some of the world’s largest museums. The Dutch Restitution Committee determined that the salt shakers were subject to claims in 2018, and in 2022 the committee recommended that they be returned. On May 12, 2023, the salt shakers were returned to Emma Budge’s heirs. Also on May 12, 2023, the heirs sold all four salt shakers to the State Museum.
Starting September 6, the salt shakers will be on display at the Rijksmuseum in a special exhibition highlighting the history of the objects as well as Emma Budge’s history as a philanthropist and art collector. Also part of the exhibition will be a pair of portraits of Lutma and his second wife Sarah de By, painted by Jacob Adriaens.