Looted Art – Rescued and Returned

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Looted Art – Rescued and Returned

Hermann Goering made 20 visits to Jeu de Paume in Paris between 1940 and 1942 to select looted art.

Next to Hitler, Goering was the most voracious collector of artworks plundered from Nazi-occupied lands.  Seeing his collection as the sign of a sophisticated connoisseur, he built galleries at his country estate Cairnhall to display his loot, transporting the ill-gotten gains by private train.

In the years after the war, there was a flurry of activity to repatriate art despoiled from various countries and scattered throughout Germany and Austria.  The rekindling of these memories, returning the recollection of patronage, these are the experiences the Nazis tried to wipe out.   With that in mind, I wish to share with you this latest collection from the Red Leather Archive – Looted Art, Rescued and Returned.  These paintings are considered to be Hermann Goering’s most significant trophies, the pillaged art jewels of Europe.


“Virgin and Child” (1520) by Jan Gossaert

Now housed at the Art Institute of Chicago, this Flemish painting was confiscated from a French collector, and later restituted to the collector’s daughter in 1946.  2002 saw the image featured as a US Postal Service Christmas stamp.


“The Judgment of Paris” (1528) by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Acquired by Goering in 1936 and loaned to Berlin for a Cranach exhibition the following year, this German Renaissance painting was returned to Frankfurt in 1954 to the previous owner.  He and his wife donated it to the art museum in Basel, Switzerland.


“Portrait of the Marquise Jeronima Spinola-Doria” (c. 1625) by Anthony van Dyck

Owned by the Rothschild family, confiscated by the Nazis, and transferred to Goering in 1940.  The Rothschild’s did see the painting returned, and donated it to the Louvre in 1949.


“Portrait of his Sister Elizabeth van Rijn” (1632) by Rembrandt van Rijn

Walter Andreas Hofer, Goering’s chief buying agent, acquired the painting in 1940. After being restituted, it was sold in 1953 to a Swiss collector whose estate auctioned the painting at Sotheby’s in 2007 for $9 million.


“The Crowning of Saint Catherine” (1633) by Peter Paul Rubens

Created for a church in Mechelen, Belgium, this painting was sold in the mid-1700s to an English duke. It was eventually purchased by a Jewish collector in Berlin and acquired by Goering in 1942. After being returned to the collector’s son, it was purchased by the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art.


“River Landscape With Ferry” (1649) by Salomon van Ruysdael

In 1940, Goering orchestrated his largest art heist: the coerced acquisition of artworks from Amsterdam’s famed Goudstikker Gallery, including this Dutch landscape. After the war, the painting was transferred to the Rijksmuseum, where it remained for 45 years. In 2005, the painting was restituted by the Dutch government to the Goudstikker heirs and purchased two years later by the National Gallery of Art in Washington.


“Alexander the Great and Campaspe at the Studio of Apelles” (c.1740) by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Goering’s agent, Hofer, bought this painting in a forced sale of works collected by a Jewish businessman in France. After the war, the Tiepolo hung in the Louvre for 50 years until it was returned to the businessman’s heirs in 1999. The following year, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles purchased the painting at a Christie’s auction.


“Venus at Vulcan’s Forge” (1769) by Francois Boucher

Among several works painted by Boucher for a grand Parisian residence, this work was sold in 1882 to Baron Edmond James de Rothschild. It was confiscated from Rothschild’s heirs and acquired by Goering in 1941. The painting was returned to the Rothschild’s and sold in 1972 to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.


“Portrait of Mademoiselle Grimprel With Blue Bow” (1880) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

This portrait of a young French girl was looted from Parisian art dealer Paul Rosenberg and acquired by Goering in 1941. After its return to the Rosenberg family, it was sold to the manager of a perfume company in Paris.


“The Beautiful Falconer” (c.1880) by Hans Makart

Adolph Hitler gave this painting to Goering in 1938 as a birthday present. On the inventory of recovered Goering paintings, it was mistakenly titled “Brunhilde,” perhaps an interpretation of its depiction of a voluptuous woman holding a bird. The painting now hangs in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich.



This list is merely the tip of an iceberg that constituted Goering’s collection.  Only two complete publications are available beyond the archival record, one based on the papers of Rose Valland, of Monuments Men fame, intrepid overseer of the Louvre during the occupation, published as “Le Catalogue Goering”, by Flammarion.  The second, “Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection”, by Nancy Yeide, head of curatorial records at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.  Sadly both are beyond budget for this humble historical researcher, but the short list of repatriated art gives a writer hope that the long forgotten archive still has a voice, and that is the real importance of the matter.

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed this post of the Red Leather Archive.
















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