By John Varoli
Christian Vogel von Vogelstein, Junge Dame mit Zeichengert (detail), 1816
ST PETERSBURG. The Dresden State Art Collection (SKD) has determined that a painting in its collection by 19th-century artist Christian Vogel von Vogelstein had been forcefully taken by the Nazis from its Jewish owners in 1938.
Junge Dame mit Zeichengerät, 1816, was acquired by the museum in 1940 from Munich art dealer Julius Böhler for 4,500 Reichsmark ($1,100). Böhler acquired the work in 1938 with a handful of other paintings from a Vienna-based art dealer known only as Gussenbauer.
SKD researchers determined that as of mid-1938 the painting belonged to three Jewish sisters in Vienna: Malvine, Jenny and Bertha Rosauer. When the Nazis annexed Austria the sisters lost all their property and were eventually deported to concentration camps.
“The year 1940 was a signal for researchers to make an investigation into the acquisition,” the SKD said in a statement.
The find is the first major discovery for the SKD’s Provenance Research Project that was launched a year ago. The SKD, which comprises 12 museums and has holdings of around 1.2 million works of art, has a €15m grant from the Saxony government for provenance research. The ten-year project will establish a database for every work in the collection.
The SKD said the next step is to find the heirs to the stolen painting. “With the help of relevant institutions, the Dresden State Art Collection plans to locate the entitled beneficiaries for a restitutions claim,” the organisation said.
The SKD, which is 450 years old in 2010, eventually plans to launch a website with the provenance research information, and will publish a first full report at the end of 2009, said Dr Gilbert Lupfer, director of the project. A review of the Porcelain Collection has already been completed.
Dr Lupfer said that about 80% of the SKD’s works were acquired before the Nazis came to power in 1933, so there are no doubts about their legitimacy. Researchers are focusing on the remaining 20%.