An undated painting by Franz von Stuck, Portrait zweier junger damen (Portrait of Two Young Girls)––which was stolen from Munich’s Führerbau, the Nazi party’s headquarters, on April 30, 1945, the day Adolf Hitler killed himself––is being put up for sale by the Cologne auction house Van Ham, writes Catherine Hickley of the Art Newspaper. The painting was meant for the collection of the Führermuseum in Linz, an art museum planned for Hitler’s hometown that was never erected. The work was taken after crowds raided the Führerbau the day Hitler died.
The painting, estimated to be worth as much as $35,000, will be auctioned off on November 17. Its provenance is listed as being from a private collection in Cologne. Markus Eisenbeis, the managing director and owner of Van Ham, said, “We deliberately didn’t give the full provenance. I don’t want to attract a kind of public that is interested because of its provenance.” But the piece is still listed on the German Historical Museum’s register of art taken in by the Linz Special Commission. Legally, it is considered property of the German government, since it is the Nazi regime’s successor. The German government, however, does not want to claim the painting.
Further research shows that the Stuck picture was acquired from Walter Schnabel of Wiesbaden in 1944. Jacqueline Bessé, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues, says that Schnabel was not Jewish. Though Van Ham’s investigations did not reveal any new information about the previous owners of the work, it cannot safely determine that the painting wasn’t looted from a Jewish family. “My view is that the government should intervene and purchase the painting at a moderate price, then do the provenance research. They shouldn’t just act as though it has nothing to do with them,” said Stephan Klingen of the Central Institute for Art History, a German art-historical research organization.