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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.
of Urbino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1514
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.
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
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.
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.
of Urbino, Portrait of a Young Man
van Gogh, Portrait of Dr. Gachet