Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Monuments Men Series Part III: Sotheby's to auction some saved artwork

For Part III of my Monuments Men tribute in honor of the soon-to-be release of the movie, I will discuss an auction that will commence tomorrow, January 30, 2014 at 10:00 am in New York.


Sotheby's New York Auction House
Tomorrow morning, Sotheby's will auction some of the artwork rescued by the Monuments Men in World War II, some of the work once owned by the Rothschild family.  The auction is entitled "Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture" (Sotheby's 2014).

 

Below are some of the works up for auction (Picture followed by information):

"Venice. A View of the Piazzetta Looking Towards San Giorgio Maggiore"
by Francesco Guardi 1712-1713
 
 History of the piece/Provenance
 
The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg or ERR (described in the last post) confiscated this piece of work on October 16, 1941 from Mme Louis Hirsch, who acquired the painting through inheritance in 1933 (Sotheby's 2014).

The Nazis inventoried everything, including looted art, they catalogued this painting as inv. no. Hir 8 (Sotheby's 2014).

The Monuments Men recovered this item June 25, 1945 and repatriated it to Mme Louis Rothschild in 1946.


 
"Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus" by Apollonio di Giovanni c. 1416-1465 


"The Story of Susannah" in the Manner of Paolo Uccello, see a larger image at http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2014/old-master-paintings-n09102/lot.209.html
 

History of the piece/Provenance
Both pieces confiscated by ERR from the Chateau de Ferrieres, originally the property of the Rothschilds.  The Monuments Men recovered these paintings at the Buxheim Monastery in Bulvaria and repatriated it to the Rothschilds in 1946/1947 (Sotheby's 2014).


"La cueillette des roses"; "Le musicien" by Jean-Baptise Pater 1695-1746,
 
 
History of the piece/Provenance
 
In my opinion, this lot up for auction has an even more interesting provenance during World War II.  The Rothschilds own the work in 1860, and the ERR confiscated it in 1940 (Sotheby's 2014). 
 
Hermann Goring (Goering), the highest ranking Nazi officer tried at the Nuremberg trials, Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), Director of the Four Year Plan in the German economy, and perhaps Hitler's successor, took the the works (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 2013).  In March 1945, the Nazi's evacuated them from Goring's home, and moved them again in April 1945 (Sotheby's 2014).


Defendant Hermann Goering in the prisoners' dock at the International Military Tribunal.
 Hermann Goring
 
The Monuments Men recovered the art in 1945 from Bertesgarden, and returned the pieces to the Rothschilds.
 

My Thoughts/Analysis

I am not surprised by the timing of the auction.  It is set to take advantage of the film's release.  These pieces of art are not only a piece of art history, but also Holocaust history.  Some of the items have the Nazi's inventory numbers on the paintings, for example the inv. no. Hir 8 on the back of the painting "Venice. A View of the Piazzetta Looking Towards San Giorgio Maggiore".  It's recent history is a part of the appeal of the auction.
 
I am unsure if I have any concerns regarding Sotheby's capitalizing on this moment in history, but the sale is completely legal.  The owners feel that it is the right time to auction these pieces and that is their prerogative.
 

Sources

Sotheby's
2014 Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture. http://www.sothebys.com/en/search.html?keywords=monuments+men#keywords=monuments men, accessed January 29, 2014.
 
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
2013 Hermann Goering. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007112, accessed January 29, 2014.