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'Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection'

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Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection


Nancy Yeide


June 2009


The text of the publisher's press release is set out below:

Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection

by Nancy H. Yeide


Publication Date: June 22, 2009

Laurel Publishing

Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, (1893-1946), was a German politician, military leader and leading member of the Nazi Party. He was Hitler’s designated successor and commander of the German Luftwaffe (air force). Goering amassed a vast art collection from confiscated artwork and often boasted of owning the largest private art collection in Europe. Following WWII, he was convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials and sentenced to death by hanging. Prior to his execution, Goering committed suicide.


The question of Hermann Goering’s motivations in assembling his art collection is often raised.  There are many impulses behind collecting, running the gamut from genuine love of art to calculated financial investment.  In Goering’s case it seems clear that to him, a premier art collection was a necessary attribute of the civilized and sophisticated man he so desired to be. 


Although Hermann Goering has been the subject of numerous biographies, both popular and scholarly, they tend to focus on his military and political exploits, referencing his enormous art collection only in a general way. The intent of Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection is to recreate the personal collection of paintings assembled by Goering and his art advisors, providing the first opportunity in sixty years to look at the collection as a whole, and to enable the evaluation of its place within Nazi art collecting and politics. This carefully documented catalogue is critical to the clarification of provenances of the objects featured and brings to light information about paintings whose histories and whereabouts have been hidden for decades.


The catalogue, a culmination of seven years of research by Ms. Yeide, an internationally recognized expert in World War II-era provenance research and co-author of The American Association of Museums Guide to Provenance Research, has been painstakingly assembled from archival documents that have been identified as primary to the Goering collection. These include various inventories, correspondence and other memoranda created by Goering and his staff, records of the restitution of the recovered collection to previously occupied countries, and post-war investigations by the Allies and the reconstructed German government. 


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To request an interview with the author or for a review copy, please contact:

Christy Fox, CFPR: Phone: 646-246-3743, Email:

A review of the book by Lynn Nicholas was published by Art & Antiques on 1 October 2009 and is reproduced below:

A Kleptocrat's Collection


By: Lynn H. Nicholas

Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection

By Nancy H. Yeide, Introduction by Robert M. Edsel
Laurel Publishing, $250

The great complexities of provenance research are little known to those outside the profession. Claimants of looted art, lawyers, judges and most journalists, unaware of the difficulties, often think that the exact history of a work of art is easily found. In her extraordinary book on the paintings collection of Hermann Goering, Nancy H. Yeide, chief of provenance research at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., makes clear that that is not the case. She writes that she hopes her work will provide a basis to challenge the belief that we already know everything about the Goering collection and that it will provide a foundation for ongoing research. On both counts she succeeds magnificently, and the foundation she provides is certainly formidable.

With its wealth of images and its very readable text, this book will appeal to the layman and be of tremendous use to professionals. Goering's collection, second only to that of his boss, Adolf Hitler, was bought or confiscated from individuals and museums in every corner of Germany and the lands it controlled and displayed with enormous ostentation in the Reichsmarschall's residences.

Using photographs gathered from an enormous array of worldwide sources both public and private, Yeide lays out Goering's vast assemblage of paintings more or less in the order of acquisition. The visual impact is tremendous and reveals, more than any words can, the Reichsmarschall's peculiar taste in painting, which ran heavily to the unclothed female form. It also makes clear just how much he was misled by a whole phalanx of curators and dealers, whose machinations are succinctly described in Yeide's introductory essay. The essay, written with nice touches of irony, provides excellent context and much colorful and little-known detail, such as the fact that Goering's godfather (his mother's probable lover) was an Austrian Jew from whom Goering would inherit two of the houses he would eventually fill with ill-gotten art.

But the real meat of the book is the catalogue. Yeide provides extremely useful information on archival sources for ongoing research and in a few paragraphs makes clear the complexities of the Goering documentation. The catalogue is divided into a number of sections: the main one for items known to have actually been in Goering's possession, two more for those likely or uncertain to have been in the collection and a separate section on items used in exchanges. Because of the complexity of Goering's art operations and the vast numbers of items involved, Yeide clearly had to make some decisions about what to include. For example, she does not include works from the expropriated stock of the Dutch Jewish dealer Jacques Goudstikker that were technically owned for a short time by Goering but not selected for his collections, while she does include some "degenerate" (Nazi terminology for modernist) works that were used in exchanges or immediately sold, because of their relation to other works in the collection.

The emphasis of the entries is on provenance rather than on the scholarly aspects of attribution. Alternative attributions are from the archival documentation of the Goering collection and not from art historical literature, the object being to identify the works and their history in the Nazi era rather than to determine attribution. This is as it should be in such a book. The entries are complex and not entirely user-friendly for the uninitiated, but Yeide provides a clear explanation of her methodology in the notes. Where there are gaps, which are particularly frustrating when it comes to present-day location, Yeide invites readers who might have such information to share it with her, perhaps for a future edition. Indeed, a digitized edition with spaces left for addenda would be a good thing.

This book, with its enormous wealth of detail, is an essential tool for art world professionals and should be required reading for anyone who deals with the issues of art looting and restitution. Beautifully produced and full of excellent images, it is a pleasure for anyone to read and handle.

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