Looted Objects Missing | Pending | Restituted | Resolved

Missing Objects

Each object tells a story. Some are still missing, some are restituted or resolved, and some have cases still pending. The circumstances of looting and the efforts for recovery are just as fascinating as the famous works of art themselves.

Raphael of Urbino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1514

Raphael's Portrait of a Young ManRaphael’s Portrait of a Young Man was acquired by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski in 1798, along with Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine, for the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow. This museum had one of the best known collections in Europe and was an obvious target for the Nazis. The three paintings the Nazis most wanted to acquire from this museum included the Raphael, the Leonardo, and Rembrandt’s Landscape with Good Samaritan.

In August 1939, the most valuable objects in the museum were moved to Sienewa for safekeeping, but the Nazis found them in December 1939 and confiscated them. The three most coveted paintings then became a tug-of-war between Hitler, Goering and Hans Frank.

Kajetan Mülhmann, who was the Nazi’s ‘Special Commissioner for Artworks in Nazi Territories’ took the three paintings to Goering, but Hans Posse, Hitler’s dealer, wanted the paintings for Hitler’s Fürhermuseum. Hans Frank, who was the Nazi appointed governor of Poland, wanted the paintings for himself and ordered Mülhmann to return them to Poland in 1940, where Frank displayed them.

In 1941, Goering ordered the paintings back to Berlin, but with increased Allied bombings, they eventually went East, and by Autumn 1943, they were back with Frank in Krakow. Mulhmann was replaced as art protector by Wilhelmde Palisieux, who Frank felt he could trust.

In January 1945, Frank left Krakow and escaped to his residence in Neuhaus in Bavaria. It is believed that he took the paintings with him. He arrived in Neuhaus in late January 1945 along with the artworks, and he destroyed all documentation along the way.

In May, 1945, the Allies arrested Frank and the artworks he accumulated were taken to the Allied Central Collection Point in Munich. Both the Leonardo and the Rembrandt paintings were found in Frank’s crates, but the Raphael painting was not among them. It was suspected that Palisieaux may have taken the painting. Palisieaux was incarcerated but did not give any information about the painting. Frank did not provide any information either. He was eventually found guilty for crimes against humanity and was hung.

In the years following the war, Count Stefan Zamayski, the son-in-law of the Prince who ran the Czartoryski Museum tried to get back the Raphael, but was unsuccessful due to lack of information and the fact that Poland was part of the Iron Curtain. In 1991, the museum was given back to Adam Czartoryski and is open to the public. After several years of inquiries and false leads, Czartoryski family have not had much luck in reclaiming the Raphael. They had a small break when they tracked down Frank’s art restorer, Ernst Kneisel, who said he had seen the Raphael painting with Palisiex. In 1965, Kneisel was questioned about this for an affidavit and retracted his story. This masterpiece remains missing.



Raphael of Urbino, Portrait of a Young Man

Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Dr. Gachet






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