Nazi-Looted Uccello Painting Sold During WWII to Appear at Sotheby’s – ARTnews.com
A rare masterpiece by Italian Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello, forcibly sold by its owners during World War II, will be auctioned off at Sotheby’s evening sale in London on July 28, titled “Rembrandt to Richter” The story of the work on Sunday, saying the work will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s following a settlement agreement between the painting’s youngest owners and the heirs of the collectors who previously owned it.
The original owners of the 15th century painting entitled Battle on the Bank of a River were the German heirs of Dresdner Bank, Friedrich “Fritz” Gutmann and his wife Louise, who were both killed in concentration camps in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz in 1944. Simon Goodman, the Gutmanns’ grandson, told the Guardian that the painting was the first work of art his grandfather had ever acquired. Goodman said it was sold by Hitler’s art dealer Julius Böhler in February 1942 in a forced liquidation of his relative’s property. Nazi agents placed the Gutmanns under house arrest and robbed the family of their remaining modern art and old master collections, including works by Degas, Renoir, Bosch and Botticelli on their Bosbeek estate.
On the subject of matching items
Years after the war sale in 1957, the Milanese dealer Arturo Basi sold the work to an Italian family who had owned the painting for decades. Sotheby’s then established a link between that family and the Gutmanns’ heirs, resulting in a settlement agreement between them that enabled the sale on Tuesday.
Sotheby’s experts said the painting is an example of Uccello’s signature style. “His keen interest in the use and development of linear perspective illustrates the spirit of inquiry that marked the ‘rebirth’ of painting in Tuscany in the 15th century,” said Alexander Bell, co-chair of the painting division of Sotheby’s Old Master, in a statement to the Art Market Monitor. “This current work, Battle on the Banks of a River, was originally part of a cash box – a magnificently decorated wedding chest that would likely have been given as a dowry.” Bell noted that it is the only example of the artist of its kind that hits the market. The work is estimated to be worth £ 600,000 to £ 800,000 ($ 772,500 to $ 1.03 million).
Uccello’s work is entered in the register of the German Lost Art Foundation. The tempera and gold painting is 20 inches tall and 67 inches wide and shows two warring armies separated by a river in a pre-battle scene. The Florentine panel was last publicly exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1934, while it was in Gutmann’s collection. Before he bought the work in 1921, it was auctioned for the last time in March 1918 in the Hôtel Drouot House in Paris from the collection of Gauthier Villiers.
Goodman, the author of the 2015 book The Orpheus Clock, has recorded his search for his family’s stolen art and has performed a number of high-profile restorations from his grandparents’ collection over the past three decades. In 1998, an agreement between the Gutmann heirs and the Art Institute of Chicago resulted in the repossession of Edgar Degas’ Paysage Avec Fumée de Cheminées (Landscape with Chimneys), which is currently in the museum’s permanent collection . In 2010, the Zimmerli Art Museum in Rutgers returned a rare 16th-century portrait of the German painter Hans Baldung Grien to the Gutmann heirs, who sold it at Christie’s for $ 218,500 in 2011. Another work returned to Gutmman’s heirs, Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Portrait of John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, sold for $ 7.7 million in an old master auction at Christie’s in April 2018, more than seven times its low presale of $ 1 million. The proceeds from the sale of the Uccello painting will be distributed among the Gutmann heirs and the shipping Italian family, Goodman told the Guardian.