Mendelssohn, Giulietta

Giulietta Mendelssohn

Porträt, Schwarzweiß-Foto

17 May 1871 Florence – 2. February1957 Florence
née Gordigiani

The Italian pianist Julia Sofia Maria Gordigiani, called Giulietta, was the daughter of the portraitist Michele Gordigiani and his wife Gabriella, née Couyere. In 1898, she married Georg Alexander Robert von Mendelssohn, co-owner and later senior manager of the banking house Mendelssohn & Co. in Berlin. Together with their three children Eleonora, Francesco and Angelika, the couple lived in a villa in Berlin-Grunewald, which also housed their prestigious art collection. Robert von Mendelssohn was a member of numerous art promotion associations and a collector of both old art and modern paintings. Initially, he acquired valuable Old Master works by Rembrandt, Francisco de Goya and Peter Paul Rubens, among others, but increasingly turned to contemporary French painting. Upon his death on 20 August 1917, his estate, including his art collection, passed to his wife Giulietta as his legal heir. After the National Socialist takeover in 1933, Eleonora and Francesco emigrated to New York in September 1935, as they were considered "second-degree Mischlings" due to their father's Jewish origin and thus faced Nazi persecution. Angelika had already died in 1920. Unlike the children, Giulietta was baptised a Roman Catholic and, according to Nazi diction, was an "Aryan". In 1941, Giulietta von Mendelssohn, who by then was living in Italy again and had taken Italian citizenship, sold the villa in Grunewald to the "Reichsfiskus (Heer)". The two trustees, Richard Lange in Berlin and Aldo Cima, Secretary General of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Vienna, had works of art from the collection brought to Vienna at the end of 1941. Cima entrusted the Viennese art dealer Otto Schatzker, at the same time valuation master for the Italian Chamber of Commerce, with their sale. Rembrandt's Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels was purchased by the special representative Hans Posse for the Kunstmuseum in Linz in March 1942. 32 works of art were acquired by the Reichsstatthalterei in Vienna, which subsequently assigned a Self-portrait by Rembrandt to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM), five paintings by Camille Corot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet and Claude Monet to the Österreichische Galerie (ÖG = Austrian Gallery) and three sheets by Adolf Friedrich Erdmann Menzel and 23 miniatures to the Albertina. On 18 October 1945, the Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels was transferred from the Altaussee salt mine, where it had been stored to protect it from possible war damage, to the Central Collecting Point in Munich, and was to be declared a federal asset of the BRD in 1949. On 17 December 1948, Eleonora and Francesco von Mendelssohn submitted an application for restitution of the painting to the Central Registration Office in Bad Nauheim in the Federal Republic of Germany.

They argued that their mother had given them the painting in 1933 and that Hans Posse had forced its sale with threatened violence. The Restitution Chamber at the Munich I Regional Court rejected the restitution claim on 2 June 1953 for lack of proven ownership, and the appeal against it was dismissed by the Munich Higher Regional Court on 10 March 1954. Still during the proceedings in Munich, Francesco von Mendelssohn and Lillian D. Rock, as executors of the will of Eleonora von Mendelssohn who had died in 1951, filed an application for restitution with the Regional Court for Civil Matters in Vienna in November 1952. The claim covered the six paintings in the KHM and the ÖG. The heirs were probably not aware that there were also works of art from the Mendelssohn Collection in the Albertina at the time of the proceedings, as these objects were not listed in the restitution applications. The State Financial Procurator's Office stated in its reply to the Restitution Commission at the Regional Court for Civil Matters that the application was unfounded and should therefore be rejected, as the owner and seller Giulietta was not a politically persecuted person, was also not subjected to any pressure and had received the full purchase price.

On the basis of the research resumed in 2019 by the Commission for Provenance Research for the Albertina, KHM and ÖG and the jointly compiled dossier, the Art Restitution Advisory Board also spoke out against restitution in May 2023.

Author Info
Publications about the person / institution

Beiratsbeschluss Giulietta Mendelssohn, 15.5.2023, URL: (7.6.2023).

Thomas Blubacher, "Denk Dir, ein Wesen zu haben, was man liebt …". Die Geschwister Eleonora und Francesco von Mendelssohn, in: Mendelssohn Studien. Beiträge zur neueren deutschen Kultur- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Band 13, Berlin 2003, 259–289.

Thomas Blubacher, Gibt es etwas Schöneres als Sehnsucht? Die Geschwister Eleonora und Francesco von Mendelssohn, Berlin 2008.

Thomas Blubacher, Eleonora und Francesco von Mendelssohn, in: Melissa Müller/Monika Tatzkow (Hg.), Verlorene Bilder, verlorene Leben. Jüdische Sammler und was aus ihren Kunstwerken wurde, München 2009, 72–85.

Franklin Kopitsch/Dirk Brietzke (Hg.), Hamburgische Biografie – Personenlexikon, Band 2, Göttingen 2003.

Anna-Dorothea Ludewig/Julius H. Schoeps/Ines Sonder (Hg.), Aufbruch in die Moderne. Sammler, Mäzene und Kunsthändler in Berlin 1880–1933, Köln 2012.

Julius H. Schoeps, Das Erbe der Mendelssohns. Biographie einer Familie, Frankfurt/Main 2009.


Amtsgericht Berlin-Charlottenburg, Grundbuchamt, Bestand historische Grundakten; Grundstück Königsallee 16.

Amtsgericht Berlin-Mitte, Testament Robert von Mendelssohn, Nachlassverfahren Robert von Mendelssohn.

Archivio Notarile Distrettuale Sovrintendenza di Firenze, Testament Giulietta Gordigiani.

Archivio Storico, Firenze, Elektronische Meldeauskunft Giulietta Gordigiani.

Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Bildakt_L_819_Korresp_1942.

Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv Potsdam, Bestand Rep. 36 A Oberfinanzpräsident Berlin-Brandenburg, Zl. 5.658: Devisenstellen-Sammelakt, Giulietta von Mendelssohn-Gordigiani.

Bundesarchiv (BA) Koblenz, Treuhandverwaltung von Kulturgut bei der Oberfinanzdirektion München (B 323), B 323/132, B 323/135, B 323/331.

Landesarchiv Berlin, Personenstandsurkunden; Auskünfte aus der historischen Berliner Einwohnermeldekartei (EMK); Akten A Rep. 342 Nr. 20.629 (Nachlass Franz von Mendelssohn); Bauakten (Königsallee 16).

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SMB – PK), Zentralarchiv (SMB-ZA), I/NG Spec.22, Bd. 1, Zl. 1.868/1939; Zl. 239/1940; I/GG 23, Zl. 480/1940, Zl. 1.534/1940.

Staatsarchiv München, Wiedergutmachungsbehörde Oberbayern (WB) Ia 4.301.

WStLA, LG für Zivilrechtsachen, A 29 Rückstellungskommission, RK 129/62 und RK 470/1952.