Painting from Saverne, France
A painting representing a forest scene was taken out of France at during WWII by a member of the 117th Signal Radio Intelligence, and made its way to the United States. Based on a handwritten note on the verso of the artwork, the painting may have been a part of the Saverne Museum, France.
It was brought to the Foundation’s attention by Ms. Jill Q. Weiss, daughter of veteran Ivan Quackenbush. Ms. Weiss had had the painting hanging in her family’s home since she could remember.
AT A GLANCE...
The painting, oil on canvas, depicts a forest scene in a glade or marsh, with a soft, warm sunset appearing behind the trees. It measures 18.5 x 27.5 inches.
Circumstances of Loss:
On the backing paper, a handwritten note in red ink states the painting was “liberated” from “Savern” by “117 Signal Radio Intelligence person”. The painting was in the possession of Ivan Quackenbush, who first served in the signal corps as a radio mechanic on the Belgium border, then was reassigned to southern Germany.
On Wednesday, September 27, 2023, the painting was donated to the town museum of Saverne, France.
Discovery and Research
The Monuments Men and Women Foundation learned of this document from Ms. Jill Q. Weiss, the daughter of Ivan Quackenbush. In her communications with the Foundation, Ms. Weiss wrote of a painting that had hung in her family’s house all her life. Her parents had passed away and she had recently discovered a handwritten note (likely from her father) on the reverse of the painting. It stated:
“Liberated” from Art Museum of Savern
(France – near Strasbourg) by 117 Signal
Radio Intelligence person. Cut from
frame – signature lost.
The identity of the town of “Savern” was debated, and due to the location described as being near Strasbourg, it was concluded that the note referenced the city of Saverne.
In subsequent correspondence, Ms. Weiss provided further information on her father and his service. According to her, her father, Ivan Quackenbush, “entered the war near the end and first served in the signal corps as a radio mechanic on the Belgium border. At the end of the war, after the rest of his unit (those who had served longer) returned home, he was reassigned to southern Germany.
The 117th Signal Radio Intelligence Company was assigned to the Seventh US Army—the large signal radio intelligence companies operated at army, army group, and theater level. The Seventh Army assaulted the German forces in the Vosges Mountains. In November 1944, XV Corps broke through German defenses near Sarrebourg and Saverne. This allowed the French 2nd Armored Division to liberate Strasbourg on November 23, 1944, and the Seventh Army to enter into Alsace and eventually reach the Rhine River. Along with the French First Army, the Seventh Army went on the offensive in early 1945 and eliminated the enemy pocket in the Colmar area.
The painting was cut from its original frame and stretcher, consequently losing the signature. Additionally, any identification markings on the canvas’ back were lost when it was adhered to the board. No correspondence in either subject or style with any of the paintings by artists in the Saverne Museum’s collections was found in the inventory of pre-1945 works.
Although research has been inconclusive, given the service history of the 117th Signal Radio Intelligence Company and the handwritten message on the verso, it can be inferred that the painting most likely was removed from the Saverne area during World War II.
On Wednesday, September 27, 2023, the Foundation’s senior researcher Casey Shelton delivered a painting to the Musée du Château des Rohan in Saverne, France. "My sister Jill and I are very appreciative of the honor of working with the Monuments Men and Women Foundation," said in a written statement Craig P Quackenbush, son of Ivan C. Quackenbush, on behalf of the family. "Our father would have been very pleased to know that the return of the work to its rightful home in Saverne, Alsace would be the ultimate end to its long journey."
The Foundation is pleased that nearly eighty years after the war, this painting has been returned to France and will now have a suitable home where further research can be conducted on its provenance. The Foundation wishes to express gratitude to the children of the late Mr. Quackenbush for entrusting us with this painting, to Ms. Emmanuelle Thomann, director of Museums and Historical Heritage of Saverne, and her team, for their continued assistance and commitment, and to provenance researcher Sophie Raobeharilala for her valuable help and contribution.
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