The Top 10 Most Wanted Missing Art Works From World War II

The Top 10 Most Wanted Missing Art Works From World War II

Time World | Kharunya Paramaguru:


The recent discovery of 20th-century art in Germany could be the tip of the iceberg.

When Germany’s Focus magazine revealed earlier this week that authorities had found a historic trove of missing 20th century European art suspected of being looted by the Nazis, it made headlines all over the world. For art sleuths searching for missing works, it was a sign that there is still a chance to uncover lost treasures.

One of the many legacies of the Third Reich is its purge of private art collections. Up to 200,000 art works are thought to have gone missing during the war, says Katya Hills, client development manager at the London-based Art Loss Register, the world’s largest database of lost and stolen art.

The organization is currently on the hunt for 30,000 items listed as looted or missing from this era.

Below is a list—compiled by the Art Loss Register—of the most valuable and famous artworks to have been lost or stolen during World War II. Hills hopes that some of the works may be among the over 1,400 items revealed to have been found in the latest Nazi art bust.

canaletto-piazza-santa-margherita edgar-degas-five-dancing-women-ballerinas giovanni-bellini-madonna-with-child gustav-klimt-portrait-of-trude-steiner peter-paul-rubens-the-annunciation pissarro-the-boulevard-monmartre-twilight raphael-portrait-of-a-young-man rembrandt-van-rijn-an-angel-with-titus-features the-amber-room-reconstruction-iv-1 vincent-van-gogh-the-painter-on-the-road-to-tarascon


Images from left to right:

1. Canaletto, Piazza Santa Margherita
This Canaletto lived in the private collection of Jacques Goudstikker, whose gallery was seized and purged shortly after he fled the Netherlands in 1940. Parts of the collection have been returned to Goudstikker’s heirs since, but the hunt is still on for this one.

2. Edgar Degas, Five Dancing Women (Ballerinas)
The Nazis managed to get a hold of this pastel drawing when they took the collection of Jewish art collector Baron Mór Lipót Herzog. His heirs filed a lawsuit against Hungary to seek the return of part of this collection, but this work is still missing.

3. Giovanni Bellini, Madonna with Child, c.1430
This was evacuated in the early 1940s from a museum in Berlin to be housed in a flak tower in Berlin-Friedrichshain, located within Russian control at the time. Most of the objects in the tower were either looted or presumed destroyed, including Bellini’s Madonna.

4. Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Trude Steiner, 1900
A portrait of Viennese collector Jenny Steiner’s daughter, it was seized by the Nazis after she fled Austria in 1938 and subsequently sold in 1941 to an unknown individual, not to be seen since.

5. Peter Paul Rubens, The Annunciation
This painting went missing after it was forcibly sold through the art auctioneer Paul Graupe in Berlin in 1935.

6. Pissarro, The Boulevard Montmartre, Twilight, 1897
This was part of a collection looted by the Nazis and subsequently sold through a Swiss art dealer in 1941. Though it’s shown up in almost every decade after the war, says Hills, its current location is an enigma.

7. Raphael, Portrait of a Young Man, 1513/14
Regarded by art historians as Poland’s most famous art loss from WWII, Portrait of a Young Man was taken from the Czartoryski’s family collection in Krakow to be placed in Hitler’s Fuhrer museum in 1939. It went missing at the end of the war, but unverified rumors suggest it was found in a Swiss bank vault last summer.

8. Rembrandt van Rijn, An Angel with Titus’ Features
Stored in a Chateau in the French countryside, the Nazis seized it in 1943 and took it to Paris, where it was set aside for Hitler’s museum, along with 332 other works. 162 of these have been found since, but not this one.

9. Andreas Schlüter: The Amber Room, 18th Century (photo of reconstruction by Polly Gibson)
Dubbed the “Eight Wonder of the World”, this room was made with over six tons of amber and once belonged to the King of Prussia, Peter the Great. It’s thought to have been looted during WWII by the Nazis and taken to the city of Königsberg, never to be seen again. There is however a reconstructed version in the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

10. Vincent van Gogh, The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, 1888
Among van Gogh’s most cherished pieces, this is thought to have burned when the Allied bombed the town of Magdeburg, setting alight the museum it was housed in.

(All images courtesy of the Art Loss Register)


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