October 29, 2010

Giacomo Medici's Antiquities Crime Ring Still a Presence on the Art Market


Bonhams Auction house in London sold two antiquities that had been looted by the organized crime ring run by the infamous, imprisoned Giacomo Medici. Two lots from a recent sale were part of the dossier of antiquities looted by tomb raiders on behalf of Medici, who then sold them to the world's most famous museums. Medici was arrested in 1995 and imprisoned in 2004, but the repercussions from his looting ring are still felt. Bonhams has come under scrutiny because of their failure to withdraw the two lots in question from their recent sale, despite the fact that they were notified by renowned professor of archaeology, Dr David Gill of University of Swansea. Dr Gill, an ARCA colleague both as a regular columnist and editorial board member of The Journal of Art Crime, warned Bonhams ahead of time, but the sale went through. The buyer of the two suspect lots, however, withdrew his interest when the Medici connection was made clear. ARCA lauds Dr Gill for his diligent efforts.

October 26, 2010

Setting the Price Point for Stolen Art

Noah Charney was interviewed by Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace yesterday.  Charney argues that the majority of art theft after World War II can be traced to organized crime syndicates, and that the media actually helps set the price point for the black market transfer of high profile works of art.





The Marketplace Interview:




On the missing panel from the Ghent Altarpiece:


October 24, 2010

Courbet Painting Stolen from Swansea Still Missing After 53 years


By Catherine Schofield Sezgin

October 24th is the 53rd anniversary of the theft of a Courbet seascape stolen from an art gallery in Swansea, Wales. Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves was on loan to the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery’s for a traveling exhibition when it disappeared on a Friday morning while the gallery was open.

INTERPOL, the international police organization, reports the painting as the earliest of the stolen Courbet paintings in its database of stolen works of art that has been publishing such information since 1947. INTERPOL has allowed online access to this database to “reduce illicit trade” since August 2009.

The 19th century painting is described as a “dark picture, depicting a leaden cloudy sky and dark green sea.” The 24 by 18 inch (60 by 45 centimeter) oil painting, which at the time was estimated to be valued at 3,000 to 5,000 pounds, was one of 33 paintings included in the exhibition French Painting from Romanticism to Realism: Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Eugene Delacroix, Jean-François Millet and Carle Venet. The theft occurred one week before the exhibit was scheduled to close.

The painting’s absence was noted during a routine inspection when the empty frame was found. Police investigators speculated that the work could have been smuggled out in a satchel between 10 and noon on that Friday morning when a staff member left the room. The police dusted the abandoned frame for fingerprints although they had originally hoped that the theft had been a prank and that the painting would be returned over the weekend.

The painting had been on loan to the art gallery for two months. The owner of the painting, David C. T. Thomas, a London-Welshman, told a reporter in 1957 that he had purchased the work in 1955 from a London dealer, and that the painting had been the most valuable of his small collection. The painting was in the collection of “A. Paroissen” until it was sold at Christie’s London in July, 1894, the Evening Post reported, and the painting is signed “G. Courbet.”

Gustave Courbet, the son of a prosperous vintner and landowner, pursued painting outside of academic training. Courbet spent six weeks in Etretat in the late summer of 1869, during which he earned commissions from either his dealers, or his clients, who were “hoping to obtain the work of a famous place by a famous artist.” He painted 14 canvases showing Etretat’s cliffs and several dozen views of the sea. The Musée d’Orsay in Paris has two seascapes painted in 1970, “La falaise d’Etretat après l’orage” (“Cliff at Etretat after a Storm”) and “La Vague” (“The Wave”).

The stolen painting is not easily traced in the publications about Courbet’s works. Patricia Pate Havlice’s World Painting Index, published in 1977, does not list the titles of either “Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves” (all the titles are in English) or “Leaden Sky Over a Raging Sea.” Robert Fernier’s “Vie et l’oeuvre de Gustave Courbet: catalogue raisonné”, published by the Wildenstein Foundation in 1978, also published more than 20 years after the theft, does not include an image that would match the painting stolen from the Welsh gallery that was sold in London in the 1950s. If it is difficult to trace the provenance of the painting, how difficult would it be to identify the painting today?

The thief did not have to be an art dealer or historian to know that the painting was valuable. The curator of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery had written in an article in the local newspaper, the Evening Post, “It would not be an exaggeration to say that never have so many masterpieces been brought together within its walls before.” The missing painting was described as “one of the greatest examples of landscape painting,” according to the Evening Post. Why did the thief steal only the Courbet and not the other famous works of art? Did (s)he have a special attachment to that particular painting, or was it easier to steal than the others?

The newspapers reported on the theft with headlines, such as “Masterpiece is Stolen in Swansea” (Evening Post, October 25, 1957); “Did a Fanatic Steal the Painting? Difficult to sell work by well-known artist” (Evening Post, October 26); “Art gallery masterpiece stolen” (Evening Post, October 26); and “Search goes on for picture thief” (Evening Post, October 28). An image of the painting was also published in the Evening Post on October 30 under the title “Leaden Sky over a Raging Sea.”

INTERPOL’s stolen art works database features two other missing seascapes: “La Mer” stolen from Rochefort, Switzerland in August 1992, and “Coastal Landscape in North of France” (painted in 1866) stolen from Kilchberg, Switzerland in January 2008. Eight other Courbet paintings have been reported stolen to Interpol: a self-portrait in 1971 from Italy; the head of a youth from France in 1981; a "Standing Man" from Switzerland in 1984; a "Shot Deer" from Slovenia in 2010; and four landscapes (Canada in 1972; France in 1997; Paraguay in 2002; and Switzerland in 2008).

The Courbet landscape stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972 had been publicized as a valuable painting in the newspapers before the nighttime robbery of the museum when three men entered an unsecured skylight and stole more than 18 paintings – including works by Daumier, Delacroix, and Millet.

The website Art Theft Central (Courbet Painting Recovered, December 3, 2009) cited a report from the Associated Press that the French police had found a Courbet painting stolen in 2004, “The Wave”, at the house of an employee from the Paris auction house, Hôtel Drouot. At the time, “The Wave” was not listed as stolen by INTERPOL.


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Herbert, Robert L. “Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867-1886.” Yale University Press, 1996.

INTERPOL, stolen works of art database, https://www.interpol.int.

Fernier, Robert. Vie et l’oeuvre de Gustave Courbet: catalogue raisonné. Tome II, Pentures: 1866-1877, Fondation Wildenstein, 1978.

“Masterpiece is Stolen in Swansea,” Evening Post, October 25, 1957.


“Did a Fanatic Steal the Painting?”, Evening Post, October 26, 1957.


"Search goes on for picture thief," Evening Post, October 28, 1957.


"Art Gallery masterpiece stolen," Evening Post, October 26, 1957.

"Missing Painting," Evening Post, October 30, 1957.

October 21, 2010

The Stroganoff Collection in 1800 by Alexander Stroganoff


by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

In 1800, Alexander Stroganoff recorded his thoughts about the 116 paintings he had collected over 40 years in an 80-page book under the title, “Catalogue raisonné des Tableaux qui composent la collection du Comte A. de Stroganoff.” The image on the right is of a painting by Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder, “Portrait of Count Alexander Stroganoff,” now at The Perm Art Gallery in Perm, Russia. The second image (bottom left) is a portrait by Jean-Laurent Mosnier, “Portrait of Count Alexander Stroganoff, the President of the Academy of Arts (1800-1811)”, painted in 1804 and now at The Museum of the Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Getty Research Institute has a copy of Stroganoff’s red leather-bound book from the Duits Collection, part of the 69 boxes of business records kept from 1920 to 1979 for the London branch of an Amsterdam art dealer specializing in Old Master paintings who closed his shop in 1938. The inside of the front cover of the 210-year-old book has a label indicating that it was purchased from a bookstore in Paris’ sixth arrondissement (Librairie F. De Nobele, at 35, Rue Bonaparte). The book is in pristine condition and can only be read in the GRI’s Special Collections reading room.

Alexander Stroganoff, the son of the baron who founded the Stroganoff Picture Gallery, wrote about and described the appreciation he had for the paintings that were in his possession for more than 40 years. Alexander (1733-1811) had lived in Paris, first to study, and then during the 1770s while he attended art auctions and expanded to his father’s art collection.

In the introduction, Stroganoff explained that he wrote for passionate art fans, that had a natural instinct for beauty, a sincere love for the arts, and who strove to acquire the knowledge necessary to appreciate the artworks. Stroganoff divided the paintings amongst the different schools of art, by painter, and by title, adding comments as he wished. No images were included, but he did describe the content of the paintings.

Stroganoff owned paintings from the schools of “Florence”, “Romaine”, “Lombarde”, “Venitienne”, and “Napolitaine et Espagnole”, but the bulk of the collection, 51 paintings, were lumped into what he called “Ecole des Pays-bas” and described as Flemish, Dutch and German artists. The second largest category was for “Ecole Française” (25 paintings).

Artists included André Del Sarto, Guido Reni, Jacques Robusti (Tintoretto), Joseph Ribera, Don Diego Velasquez, Pierre Paul Rubens, Antoine Van-Dyck, Albert Kuyp, Rembrant Van-Ryn, Nicolas Poussin and Fragonard.

Stroganoff’s two paintings by Rembrandt (“Le philosophe en meditation” and “Portrait d’un jeune homme en habit de St. François”) were described as magic and bold. He admired Rubens’s “Portrait de Rubens et de son fils” for it’s action and movement. In describing Don Diego Velasquez’s “Le buste d’un vieillard”, he compared the artist to Caravage: “On trouve dans ses ouvrages l’énergie des Grecs, la correction des Romains, le belle couleur des Vénitiens [The work has the energy of the Greeks, the restraint of the Romans, and the bold colour of the Venetians].” As for Tintoretto’s Portrait of André Doria, the noble Genoan and great seaman, Stroganoff felt that Tintoretto had managed to paint his sitter’s soul.

More than a hundred years after Alexander Stroganoff’s death in 1811, the Stroganoff Collection that remained in Russia, which dated back to the court of Catherine the Great, became property of the state during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Recently, the Stroganoff Collection was in the news as having allegedly once included the “Adam” and “Eve” diptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder that now resides in The Norton Simon Museum. Jacques Goudstikker had purchased the Cranach painting at a sale in Berlin in 1931 that had been marketed under the name of the Stroganoff Collection; however, the sales catalogue said that “Adam” and “Eve” were one of the items in the sale that were not actually from the Stroganoff Collection (ARCA blog, “The Norton Simon Museum’s “Adam” and “Eve”).

In writing about his collection in 1800, Count Alexander Stroganoff does not mention any works that contained any images of Adam and Eve, or any paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, who he would have categorized with the Dutch and Flemish painters since he considered that the German artists worked in the same genre.

Although this book does not answer the question as to how Cranach’s “Adam” and “Eve” diptych reached a church in Kiev in the 1920s, it does document the appreciation and love Alexander Stoganoff had for his vast collection and document the paintings and their titles as known to him.

Further provenance research may provide answers to this mystery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Olga’s Gallery/The Stroganoffs (also Stroganovs) http://www.abcgallery.com/bio/stroganoff.html

October 20, 2010

The Norton Simon Museum’s Adam and Eve Part II

The following is part two of an examination of the Norton Simon Museum's Adam and Eve by Catherine Sezgin. The first installment can be found here.

Goudstikker Collection sold to Nazis in 1940
When war broke out in the Netherlands on May 14, 1940, Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker fled his home and was forced to leave behind his gallery and a trading stock of 1,113 inventoried works of art. During the war, the Nazis occupied the Netherlands for five years and sent more than 100,000 Dutch Jews to concentration camps. Only 5,000 Dutch Jews survived. More than 45,000 Dutch citizens were charged with collaborating with the Nazis. Goudstikker’s art gallery, his artworks, and his real estate were all sold without either his or his family’s permission.

The Goudstikker trio escaped on the SS Bodegraven, a ship traveling to South America, when on May 16th Jacques, seeking some fresh air from the hull, went up to the deck of the ship and died when he fell through an uncovered hatch. He was carrying a black notebook, which his wife Désirée recovered, that detailed and numbered his artworks. The Goudstikker “Blackbook” described works by Rembrandt, Steen, Ruisdael, Van Gogh, and listed Cranach’s Adam and Eve as Numbers 2721 and 2722 with a note that they were purchased at the Lepke Auction House and were from the Church of Holy Trinity in Kiev. 

Not long after Goudstikker’s fatal accident, the person he left in charge of his business also died. Two employees, friendly to the Nazis, assumed control of the business and then sold all of Goudstikker’s assets to a German banker, Alois Miedl, who lived in the Netherlands. Within two weeks, two more purchase agreements were executed – one that gave the gallery and real estate to Miedl and another that gave a majority of the artworks to General Field Marshall Hermann Göring, the second-in-command for the Third Reich. During the war, Göring looted paintings, drawings, antiquities, and sculptures for his private estate. Both Goudstikker’s widow and his mother, the other shareholder, objected to these transactions. In addition to payment of more than 2.5 million Dutch guilders – a gross amount not the net proceeds set aside for the Goudstikker heirs -- the involuntary sale promised personal protection to Goudstikker’s mother who had chose to remain in Amsterdam. The gallery employees who arranged the sale also received proceeds from the illegal transaction for their cooperation.

Göring sent Cranach’s Adam and Eve to Carinhall, his country estate near Berlin, where they remained until the Allied Forces’ invasion of Germany.

Goudstikker’s widow recovers only some assets after World War II
In 1943, the United Nations declared that looted property recovered after the war was to be restored to its nation of origin for return to its original owner. In May 1945, Allied Forces discovered Göring’s collection of artworks, including Cranach’s “Adam” and “Eve”, and sent them to the Munich Central Collecting Point. In 1946, Allied Forces returned the artworks from the Goudstikker Collection to the government of the Netherlands so that they could be restituted to their owners.

In 1946, Jacques Goudstikker’s widow, Désirée, returned to Amsterdam to retrieve her property. For five years she negotiated with the Dutch government and in an agreement in 1952, Goudstikker settled with the Dutch state to “(re-)purchase” more than 300 art objects in exchange for waiving any ownership rights to any other art objects delivered to Miedl during the war. However, the agreement did not address the almost 800 artworks that were delivered to Göring in Germany.

From Scherbatoff to Simon
In 1961, a Russian American Naval Officer, George Stroganoff Scherbatoff, found “Adam” and “Eve” in the national collection in The Netherlands and claimed that his ancestor Stroganoff had owned the painting. In 1966, Scherbatoff made a payment to the Dutch Government and received possession of the diptych. Norton Simon purchased the paintings in 1971 for $800,000 from Scherbatoff through a dealer in New York. Simon displayed the paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1971 and the Princeton University Art Museum in 1972. “Adam” and “Eve” have been on display in Simon’s Pasadena museum since 1979.

Reclaiming the Goudstikker Collection
Through the help of a Dutch journalist who wrote a book about the Goudstikker Collection, Marei von Saher, received new information about her father-in-law’s gallery inventory and made a claim for the paintings in 1998 that the Dutch government declined. That same year, 44 governments participated in the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets to acknowledge that many Nazi looted art objects had not been reunited with their wartime owners and encouraged countries to create databases and processes to return un-restituted art. In 2004, she applied for recovery to the Restitutions Committee to investigate wartime claims, and two years later, the Committee affirmed that the sale of the Goudstikker Gallery had been illegal, regardless of the amount paid, as it occurred under Nazi occupation. However, the Dutch Resolutions Committee wrote that the 1952 agreement that addressed the artworks held by Miedl would remain in force but that it did not preclude the Goudstikker heir from claiming 202 art objects in the Dutch national collection that had been sold and delivered to Göring from the Goudstikker Gallery.

The Resolutions Committee wrote in its recommendation in 2005 that the sale was “involuntary” because Goudstikker’s widow and his mother had refused permission for the transaction and that it had been done by employees sympathetic toward “German buyers.” Since the sale had occurred “immediately after the capitulation of the Netherlands, a situation in which Göring could – and ultimately did – use the influence of his high rank in the Nazi hierarchy,” according to the recommendation.

When Göring transported about 800 paintings from the Goudstikker Collection to Germany, he kept about 300 for his personal collection and sold the others to political cronies or wealthy German industrialists. Many of these works remain lost, according to the Goudstikker Provenance Project that provides the family of Jacques Goudstikker with information to regain possession of their lost artworks. The Project uses many sources to identify the collection. Jacques Goudstikker’s small black leather binder, which he recorded in anticipation of the German invasion, identified his current stock in alphabetical order by artists’ name. In addition, information is also obtained from an inventory register of the stock held in the gallery in May 1940 and the Goudstikker gallery’s photographic archive. A visual record of the collection is also extracted from examining six million photographs of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie. Through this method, the Goudstikker Collection has reclaimed more than 30 additional paintings from private collections and museums.

Cranach’s “Adam” and “Eve” at the Norton Simon Museum have traveled from the Ukraine to California and survived both the Soviet Union and the Third Reich in the 20th century and they will survive the current controversy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Books:
Sutton, Peter C. Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2008.


Primary sources:
Schmidt, James. “The Stroganoff Collection in Leningrad [now St. Petersburg].” Translated by Hess Translations, Inc. from German into English, August 11, 2007. Schmidt’s article accompanied the catalogue for the 1931 “Stroganoff” auction in May 1931 in Berlin.


Complaint filed May 1, 2007 in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Plaintiff Marei Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, Norton Simon Art Foundation, and the Norton Simon Foundation, defendants.
Case No. DV 07-02866


Getty Provenance Research Database. Record 27653 “Adam” and Record 27343 “Eve”.


Websites:
http://www.thejewishmuseum.org/GoudstikkerRelease
http://www.rapeofeuropa.com/stolenRestitutions.asp#saher
http://www.goudstikkerblackbook.info/
www.nortonsimon.org
www.getty.edu

October 18, 2010

Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume

By Catherine Sezgin

During World War II in Nazi-occupied Paris, more than 20,000 art objects were systematically looted from over 200 Jewish families, and either sold or transported to Germany. Seventy years later, at least half of the objects have not yet been restituted to the owners, or their heirs, in accordance with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The Claims Conference and the United State Holocaust Museum have just released an online database of art objects that were processed from 1940 to 1944 in the center of Paris at the Jeu de Paume on the Place de la Concorde.

As the Nazis’s special task force the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) confiscated paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, and antiquities from private collections. More than sixty people at the Jeu de Paume inventoried, photographed, and arranged for the transportation of the artworks on 120 railways coaches from France to Germany. Every looted painting was registered and stamped by the Nazis. The French national, Rose Volland, a volunteer at the museum before the war who observed the operation, kept a secret account of everything the Nazis stole and where they planned to deliver the art. Using secret couriers during the war, she notified the Allied Forces of the Nazis’s activities. After the defeat of the Third Reich, much of the stolen art was found and returned to their countries of origin to be reunited with their owners. However, many families, who were devastated by the Holocaust, did not have the records to identify or claim artworks.

Now the Claims Conference, working with the technical support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has transferred the information from the index cards, or inventory lists, to a database “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume.”

“Decades after the greatest mass theft in history, families robbed of their prize artworks can now search this list to help them locate long-lost treasures,” said Julius Berman, Claims Conference Chairman [in a press release]. “It is now the responsibility of museums, art dealers, and auction houses to check their holdings against these records to determine whether they might be in possession of art stolen from Holocaust victims. Organizing Nazi art-looting records is an important step in righting a historical wrong. It is not too late to restore art that should have been passed down within Jewish families instead of decorating Nazi homes or stored at Nazi sites.”

The public can access the newly released online database on Nazi looted art from Paris through the URL: www.errproject.org/jeudepaume. Users can search by collection, owner, artist, and type of art object (paintings, works on paper, sculpture, decorative arts or antiquities). Information in the database will be regularly updated, according to Project Director Marc Masurovsky, a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Masurovsky used some ARCA graduates to assist in the inputting of the datasets.

Masurovsky, the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), which began in 1997, spoke about documenting and recovering Nazi looted art last March at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment for ARCA’s exhibit “The Dark Arts: Thieves, Forgers and Tomb Raiders” in Washington, DC this past February. He also spoke about “Nazi Plunder of Looted Cultural Property and Its Impact on Today’s Art Market” at ARCA’s International Art Crime Conference in July in Amelia, Italy.

In the future, users will be able to find individual datasets through Google by typing specific artists’ names in the search box, Masurovsky wrote in an email. Each object in the database is described based on the information from the card that the Nazis filled out and includes any images that may have been taken. The database also provides information about whether or not the artwork was returned to France and if it was restituted to its owner. For example, Arthur Levy’s collection of 125 artworks has not been returned to the family. Database users can even search by Artist. For example, a landscape by Vincent van Gogh from the collection of Alfred Weinberger in Paris was photographed and measured (60 x 100 cm) when it was brought to the Jeu de Paume in 1941 on December 4.

The Jeu de Paume as a looted art center was of particular interest to the German army’s second-in-command, Hermann Göring who spent two days there during the war looking at the art. He then asked that photographs of the art be sent to Hitler for him to make selections from the spoils of war. Unfortunately, in July 1942, the Jeu de Paume collection center was overburdened. Paintings declared unfit for German collections and too degenerate to be sold on the art market were burned in the garden. Rose Volland was said to have cried at the destruction of works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Jean Míro and Salvador Dali.

Lucas Cranach the Elder's "Adam" and "Eve" diptych subject of Marei Von Saher vs. The Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena (Part I)

Cranach's "Adam",
Norton Simon Museum
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin

First of a two part series

While his close friend Martin Luther “often preached about the fall of man and its consequences” (Norton Simon Museum audio tour), the German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder painted more than 30 works of the naked Adam and Eve contemplating a bite of the forbidden apple and expulsion from Paradise. The "Adam" and "Eve" diptych residing at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, is the subject of controversy 500 years later in a Holocaust art-restitution case (Marei Von Saher vs. The Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena). The heir of a Jewish art dealer, Jacques Goudstikker, has claimed that Hitler’s second-in-command, Herman Göring, stole “Adam” and “Eve” in 1940 and that the Dutch government wrongly transferred the paintings to the heir of a Russian aristocratic family in a purported sale, who then sold the works to wealthy industrialist Norton Simon in 1971.

Cranach's "Eve",
Norton Simon
Museum
The Norton Simon Museum’s “Adam” and “Eve”, painted on two large wood panels measuring 75 x 27 ½ inches, likely started out as decorating the home of a wealthy member of the royal court in the 16th century although it would end up in a Church in Kiev by the 20th century. The scope of this article does not track down all of the 30 versions “Adam and Eve” neither does it explain how the Norton Simon Museum’s painting came to travel to the Ukraine in the 1920s. However, a quick review of public institutions through the Getty Provenance Index Databases shows that smaller, paintings of the first couple have been in the collections of the Detroit Institute of the Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. The diptych on display in Chicago has resided there since 1935 after Charles H. Worcester purchased it on September 10, 1935 from Jacques Goudstikker of Amsterdam before donating it to the museum in the same year. It is believed that Goudstikker purchased Chicago’s “Adam” and “Eve” from a private collection in Stockholm.1

Jacques Goudstikker, a third-generation art dealer in Amsterdam, owned more than one of the thirty paintings by Cranach of “Adam” and “Eve”. He was a specialist in Old Master paintings and had produced shows that featured works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Goya, Rubens, and Hieronymus Bosch. He purchased a larger diptych of “Adam” and “Eve” by Cranach the Elder for $11,186 at an auction in Berlin in 1931. The auction featured works previously owned by the Stroganoff family in St. Petersburg. However, in 1917, the Bolshevik government had nationalized all art held in private collections and to raise money in 1931, the Russian government put the artworks up for sale.

The Stroganov Collection

Count Aleksandr Sergeevich Stroganov (1733-1811), an art patron and a member of the court of Catherine the Great, acquired most of his art at Paris auctions from 1769 to 1779. He catalogued them in published editions in 1793 and 1800. In the mid-19th century, Count Sergei Grigoryevitch added to the Stroganoff Collection by acquiring many 15th century Italian paintings. In 1864, German art historian Gustav Friedrich Waagen described the Stroganov Collection when he assisted the Hermitage in sorting their collection. In 1901, Alexander Benois described the Stroganoff palace and gallery in Les Trésors d’Art en Russie.2 The Stroganoff Collection was displayed in the gallery of the family palace in St. Petersburg until it was moved to safety in Moscow during the Revolution. Eventually, it was returned to Leningrad.

Soviet artworks were not all from the Stroganoff Collection

The catalogue of the auction of the Stroganoff Collection at Rudolph Lepke’s Kunst-Auctions-Haus in Berlin, included an essay by James Schmidt who wrote that pictures from sources other than the Stroganoff Collection were included in the sale. Schmidt provided “a summary overview” of paintings offered for sale at the auction that were not from the Stroganoff Collection. He listed Rembrandt’s “Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well” from the Hermitage; Claude Lorrain’s “Morning” and “Ulysses at Lycomedes’ Court”; Van Dyck’s “Bishop Malderus”; Nicholaus Neufchatel’s “Patrician Woman from Nuremberg”; and Artus van der Neers’ “Moonlight Landscape”. Schmidt also cited Goyens’ “View of Arnheim Across the Rhine” from the Semenov-Tianshansky collection acquired by the Hermitage in 1912. Then, in the next paragraph, Schmidt wrote: “The remaining paintings from other sources include primarily “Adam and Eve” by Cranach, which were discovered in a Kiev church and can be dated to between 1525 and 1530.”

“Adam” and “Eve” are believed to have been at the Church of Holy Trinity in Kiev, Ukraine until the early 1920s when they were sent to a state-owned Kiev museum at Kievo Pecherskaia Lawra Monastery. Then in 1927, they were transferred to the Museum of the Ukrainian Academy of Science in Kiev before they were included in the Berlin sale in 1931.

Provenance Research

The Getty Provenance Research Database notes in its records on the “Adam” and “Eve” diptych at the Norton Simon Museum: “There is reason to doubt, however, that the Cranach paintings had actually belonged to the Stroganoff family and been confiscated during the Russian Revolution, as previously believed. First, other collections were included in the 1931 Lepke sale. According to an annotation by Ellis Waterhouse in a copy of the catalogue of the sale now in the GRI [Getty Research Institute], “Not a very large proportion of the pictures really came from the Stroganoff coll(ection). The rest are drawn from other sequestrated private collections & from the Hermitage depot.” The Getty also notes that Cranach’s Adam and Eve do not appear in earlier references to the Stroganoff collection.

This blogger has sent a request to the Norton Simon Museum for more information about the provenance of their paintings and looks forward reporting their reply.

2. Waagen published a book on the Hermitage collection (Munich, 1864). Waagen traveled to St. Petersburg in 1861. Schmidt’s essay, May 1931.

October 15, 2010

Noah Charney on WNYC

You can hear an interview with ARCA Founding President Noah Charney on WNYC with Leonard Lopate embedded below.  The discussion is his new book discuss his new book, "Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece" (Amazon)(Barnes & Noble).


October 11, 2010

ARCAblog's New Editor: Catherine Sezgin

The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) introduces Catherine Sezgin as the new editor of the ARCAblog.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin graduated "With Distinction" from the ARCA Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies in Amelia, Italy, in Amelia, Italy, in 2010. Her thesis was a portrait of the 1972 unsolved theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts using museum archives, interviews, and published accounts. She has an undergraduate degree in Finance from San Diego State University where she was a reporter and news editor for the daily newspaper. She is a Canadian citizen and a permanent resident of Pasadena, California. She writes about museum thefts, stolen antiquities in Turkey, and is currently writing an art crime mystery.

Beginning this week, Catherine will contribute weekly articles that will include analyses of historic art thefts, interviews with professionals in the field of art crime, and breaking news updates, among much more. Stay tuned!

October 7, 2010

"Stealing the Mystic Lamb"


ARCA's Founding President will be touring a handful of cities on the East coast to discuss his new book, "Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece"(Amazon)(Barnes & Noble).


As I wrote in my review yesterday, the reader learns the story of one massive 2-ton altar piece, the single most stolen work of art of all time. Charney spends great care telling the story of the altarpiece during both World Wars, noting the debt we art theft enthusiasts owe to Karl Meyer; Robert Edsel and Brett Witter's fine work telling the story of the Monuments Men; and Lynn Nicholas among many others. Yet what really comes through in Charney's book is a breathless story which merges history, towering figures like Napoleon or Hitler and their associates, art, artists, and imagery that revalidates why so many are interested in the study of art theft: these are really good stories. And it ends with an epilogue, yet another of the work's enduring mysteries.


Here are the details for the book tour:

October 10, 2010
Lecture / Booksigning
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
225 South Street
Williamstown, MA 01267
3:00 p.m.

October 12, 2010
Talk / Q&A / Booksigning
Atticus Bookstore
1082 Chapel Street
New Haven, CT 06510
7:00 p.m.

October 13, 2010
Talk / Q&A / Booksigning
Corcoran Gallery of Art
500 Seventeenth Street NW
Washington DC 20006
7:00 p.m.

October 14, 2010
Talk / Q&A / Booksigning
Borders
Park Ave. and 57th St
New York, New York
7:00pm