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Hitler's Art Gallery

Cranach.jpgWhat kind of art gave Herr Hitler a stiffy? We know he dabbled with the brushes himself. And we also know he was rather conservative in his tastes. Turns out this Cranach on the left was in his collection. A photo album called “The Private Gallery of Adolf Hitler” depicting 74 paintings and two tapestries in Hitler’s private art collection is now online at The Library of Congress blog.

The Third Reich Collection, a miscellany of books, albums, and printed materials from the Reichskanzlei Library in Berlin and the private book collections of several high-ranking Nazi Party officials, was discovered in a salt mine near Berchtesgaden among Nazi property that has been removed from Berlin during the last stages of World War II. The so-called Hitler Library was screened by the U.S. Army Document Center in Munich and shipped to the Library of Congress in 1946. A large number of the 1,019 volumes transferred to the Rare Book and Special Collections Division are official presentation copies which bear dedications, notes of transmittal, or in some cases Hitler's eagle bookplate. Several books were acquired by Hitler before 1930. The Third Reich Collection also includes a set of Die Alte Garde spricht, a series of typed autobiographies of Nazi Party members; a Braille edition of Mein Kampf; and materials from the libraries of Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Franz Zaver Schwarz, and other Nazi leaders.

The painting above "Cupid Complaining to Venus" by the German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder was painted in about 1525. A photo of it was found it the Hitler collection and the original is in The National Gallery of Britain. Its provenance is uncertain and there's conjecture that it may have been looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis.

In 1945 U.S. soldiers allowed a U.S. war correspondent to remove it from a warehouse of art they were guarding in southern Germany.

A researcher, Birgit Schwartz, who has been studying Hitler's art collecting, spotted the painting in a photograph of Hitler's private gallery contained in an album at the Library of Congress in Washington.

The painting, an oil-on-wood work measuring 33.2 by 22 inches, shows Cupid complaining to a naked Venus that he has been stung by bees after stealing honey from their hive.

The National Gallery bought the painting in 1963 from New York art dealers E & A Silbermann, who told the gallery that they had purchased it from "family descendants" of the buyer at the 1909 Berlin auction.

That now seems to be incorrect. What is known is that the painting was part of a collection belonging to Emil Goldschmidt of Frankfurt and was auctioned in 1909.

The National Gallery posted the painting on its Web site with 120 others whose ownership and location were unclear during the Nazi era, 1933 to 1945.

In December 2004 the gallery received an e-mail from Jay Hartwell of Hawaii, who said his mother, Patricia Lochridge Hartwell, had owned the painting from 1945 until she sold it to the Silbermann family in 1963.

In 1945 she was the war correspondent allowed to take a painting from a warehouse full of art that was then controlled by U.S. forces.

Christie's said the record price for a Cranach painting at auction was $8.6 million in 1990, in London. But with the added history of being in the private collection of Adolf Hitler this one might be worth a lot more.

Incidentally, turns out the Cranach originally hung in Hitlers Berlin flat but was put into storage for safekeeping.

The dictator's love of art is well-known: apart from studying to be a painter, from 1938 he took a great personal interest in amassing works for a grandiose art gallery in Linz, Austria, much of it stolen or confiscated from Jewish collectors. The Munich flat was never photographed for security reasons and so little has been known about its contents. Two lists of artworks in the flat were made, one by a friend of Hitler and one shortly after the war, but because Cranach painted a number of versions of the same subject the National Gallery picture was not linked to Hitler's picture until the photograph emerged...According to an article by Dr Schwartz in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the album reveals that the Cranach was something of an anomaly for Hitler, as his taste leaned heavily towards minor German masters of the 19th century, including Carl Spitzweg, Heinrich Bürkel and Rudolf Epp.

From this Guardian article

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