LONDON.-The National Gallery seeks further information in response to a recent discovery about the provenance of its painting Cupid Complaining to Venus by Lucas Cranach the Elder.
In the light of new information, the National Gallery believes that Cupid Complaining to Venus was once part of Adolf Hitlers private collection.
We are very grateful to Dr Birgit Schwartz, who has been carrying out research on Hitlers art collecting, for bringing to our attention new information that greatly contributes to our search to fill gaps in the provenance of this painting. The National Gallery believes that Dr Schwartzs identification of the painting in a photograph of Hitlers private gallery is correct. The photograph is in an album that is part of Hitlers former library of 1200 volumes, now in the Library of Congress in Washington. Although Cranach and his workshop made many versions of his compositions, they were rarely exact replicas. The Latin inscription in the National Gallery Cupid Complaining to Venus is placed directly against the background, rather than on a white cartellino. This inscription and other distinctive features of the London painting are clearly visible in the photograph.
The National Gallery bought Cupid Complaining to Venus in 1963 from the New York dealers E & A Silbermann. This firm stated at the time that it came to them from the sale of the collection of Emil Goldschmidt from Frankfurt which was auctioned by Rudolph Lepke in Berlin on 27 April 1909. The Cranach painting was listed as Lot 48 at this auction. E & A Silbermann told the National Gallery in 1963 that Cupid Complaining to Venus was sold to them by family descendants of the buyer at the 1909 auction. Recently the Gallery learnt that the painting was actually acquired in 1945 by Mrs Patricia Lochridge Hartwell (19161998), then an American war correspondent in Nazi Germany. A relative of Mrs Hartwell informed the National Gallery that in 1945 she was allowed to take the painting from a warehouse full of art then controlled by US forces in Southern Germany. Mrs Hartwell eventually took the painting back home to the USA.
The provenance gap that now exists is therefore between 1909 and 1945. We also now know that the painting was in Hitlers possession at some stage during this period. The National Gallery now wishes to establish how and when Cranachs Cupid complaining to Venus came to be in Hitlers collection. The National Gallery is continuing its investigations to find this out. Any information from the public would be gratefully received.
Part of the Gallery's normal work is to investigate the provenance of its paintings. In light of concerns that some works of art may have been improperly acquired during 193345, the National Gallery, along with museums elsewhere, has paid particular attention to the whereabouts of its paintings during those years.
In March 1999 The Art Newspaper,in cooperation with the National Gallery, published a list of the Gallerys paintings, the whereabouts of which during all or part of the years 1933 to 1945 was not known. Cupid complaining to Venus was included on the list. Since 1999 research has continued, and the list, which can be found on the Gallerys website, is updated from time to time as new information emerges.
The National Gallery wishes to learn as much as possible about the provenance of the Cranach painting as part of its ongoing provenance researches. Anyone who may have further information on the precise whereabouts of this painting at any time during the period 19091945 is asked to contact the National Gallery by letter to Libraries and Archives Department, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN; or email firstname.lastname@example.org